What is the future of wellness?

Keeping fit and healthy has helped fuel us through the COVID-19 pandemic. Months of ongoing closures led to the surge in home fitness trends and a shift to virtual tools, from online meetings to workout apps. Wellness spans many different meanings and forms, but its unprecedented demand will only continue to grow in a post-pandemic world. Although wellness has been on the exponential rise over the past decade – with the global wellness economy valued at $4.5 trillion (2018 data from Global Wellness Institute) – it is predicted to garner an even bigger boom with 2021 being the year of the travel reset. What will this mean for the wellness industry in a post-COVID world?

The future of wellness

In a recent article on Forbes, Tracy Brower outlines the future of wellness in the workplace as a major trend. “Wellbeing is important for employee happiness and fulfillment, but is also critical for business results”, said the article. According to the 2021 Employee Wellness Industry Trends report from Wellable, mental health programs in the US are seeing a rapid increase in adoption and investment as the pandemic wrecks havoc on health conditions. The majority of employers are increasing investment in mental health programs (88%), stress management and resilience (81%) and mindfulness and meditation (69%).

The Global Wellness Institute’s Global Wellness Trends report for 2021 analyzed nine predictions for wellness travel. Interesting trends included a demand for personalized nutrition, spiritual architecture and a focus on breathwork.

Mandarin Oriental, Boston’s Spa Director Jason Paluch shares his insight with Atma on where the wellness industry is heading. But first, there needs to be more clarification on how to define wellness, a term which has in some ways, has become too broad. “There are many versions of what this means across numerous brands”, he said, “Growth in this field will continue, but the businesses promoting wellness offerings will need to be specific about what they are offering and how it supports the guest’s overall wellbeing”. He noted that consumers need to understand the generic terminology to understand the expected benefits of the offerings – singularly and in combination. “Wellness offerings should be tailored to the guest’s individual needs which will be ascertained with a thorough consultation with their wellness specialist”, he added.

Working from home can lead to a blurring of physical and organizational boundaries between work and home, cited a report by BMC Pubic Health. It then went on to describe the negative impacts formed as a result, including an effect on mental and physical health due to extended hours, lack or unclear delineation between work and home and limited support from organizations. Physical consequences include back, neck and hip pain, said Paluch. “Many people began working from home with virtually no notice and are not set up ergonomically in their makeshift home offices”, he outlined, “Their bodies are suffering due to the constant strain of poor posture and equipment. The concepts of healthy ergonomic workstations needs to be a priority with overall wellness offerings”. Thus, there needs to be an accessible wellness solution if there will be this continuation of working-from-home schedules – like online workouts and stretching tools.

Current trends in wellness include oxygen chambers, biohacking, cryotherapy, talking to animals, ultra-fitness, chromosome testing and zen goals, Anna Bjurstam, Wellness Pioneer at Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas, told us. While these are exciting, we need to focus on the basics first, she noted. “We need to focus on our sleep, connecting with nature every day, moving for at least 30 minutes every day and finding a mindfulness practice that works for the person. Plus, one must eat foods to nourish oneself, stay hydrated (with good stuff) and connect with one’s heart”.

Virtual wellness

The COVID pandemic saw an emergence of new wellness brands in the virtual space, from workout apps to online wellness consultations. And it will continue its pursuit. “The growth in the virtual programming has exploded”, Paluch told us, “Initially out of necessity for the survival of the programs, then by the need of consumers to find alternatives to in-person experiences”. He added that the discovery of exercise and meditation at home has been far more effective than we could have imagined prior to the pandemic – and it will continue with virtual sessions post-pandemic. Mandarin Oriental has expanded its communication to bring specialist expertise in fitness, mindfulness and skincare practices from around the globe directly into homes via streaming platforms. “We have seen incredible interest and engagement and plan to further expand this programming”, he added.

Bjurstam agreed. “We now have a completely new platform and we do educational programs, master classes, various wellness classes, we communicate through our virtual platforms with our existing and future guests and we can reach out to them in a new way”, she told us. “We are seeing more curated virtual wellness programs being developed and it will be interesting to see where it goes in the future – but no doubt virtual fitness and wellness programs are here to stay”.


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