Maverick Life

Maverick Life

Wellness: The Well, the Will, the Bill

Photo: Adobe Stock

As the wellness industry continues to grow, and wellness fads come and go, access to the latest trends cannot be dissociated from individual economic realities.

The hashtag #Team5am, popular with the early rising jogger set, has some 10.5k entries on Instagram; curiously, the captions reflect that it is primarily popular in Brazil and South Africa, but that’s another conversation for another day.

There are of course hundreds of other fitness and wellness related hashtags on social media to explore if you’re looking to feel inspired, or annoyed, depending on your perspective. In fact, #wellness has been used over 26-million times on Instagram alone. A quick look at the posts reveals toned bodies, yoga poses, spa treatments, smoothies, matcha teas, carefully laid out vegetarian meals, plus the occasional chicken breast or piece of fish. And of course, motivational quote cards. It’s all quite enviable really, this photogenic pursuit of optimum wellness.

Looking out at this carefully composed digital landscape, where wellness practices are also status symbols, you could be forgiven for thinking that wellness always comes with a price tag. In fact, according to a report published in October 2018 by the Global Wellness Institute, a “non-profit organisation with a mission to empower wellness worldwide by educating the public and private sectors about preventative health and wellness,” the global wellness industry is worth over $4.2-trillion. That number incorporates a wide variety of sectors, from nutrition and healthy eating, to traditional and complementary medicine, through to the more luxurious: spas, mineral springs, gyms, anti-ageing, as well as preventative medicine and workplace wellness.

While it would be hard to find anyone who would deny the positive role exercise and healthy nutrition play towards overall wellness, some sectors of the wellness industry like traditional medicine, complementary medicine or anti-ageing treatments,  are regarded with a level of scepticism, especially by those in scientific fields, who might look to empirical evidence in establishing efficacy. The World Health Organisation defines wellness as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. By that definition, wellness goes beyond numbers that can be easily measured, through to how one perceives their lives, be it in the social sphere, the workplace, or indeed their mental state, and much of the wellness industry contributes to and benefits from changing our perception of well-being.

Globally, the industry is projected to grow by $681-billion by the year 2022. Yes, even more wellness fads are coming. While the number above could be an indication that more and more of us are getting healthier and seeking better ways to take care of ourselves, there is no denying the carefully targeted marketing campaigns behind wellness trends. The industry pumps out new ways to get well every year: Have you tried DNA Diet tests to determine exactly what you should be eating and how much you should be exercising according to your genetic profile? Or intravenous drips that’ll top up the nutrients in your system? With the changing laws and attitudes to cannabis, will you be stocking up on cure-all CBD oils?

One could indulge in any number of the above, budget allowing. And even at a conservative budget, simply choosing an exercise routine and carefully considered diet goes a long way towards getting one closer to the optimal wellness. However, there are certain levels of wellness treatments that cannot be divorced from one’s economic reality. For example, going for an early morning run is a completely different affair for the person who lives in a relatively safe area compared to the person who lives in one of many lower income and crime-ridden areas in South Africa, where #team5am is a potentially dangerous proposition. Even more so for women in areas with higher incidents of street harassment. Here, location becomes an economic barrier to accessing wellness.

Whatever one might think of the attractively “well” on Instagram, and for whatever reason many may be doing it, the correlation between wellness and performance is indisputable; there are more than enough studies to remove any doubt (here, here, and here, are just a few examples). The bottom line is that healthier people have a better chance at being more productive as well as having a better quality of life, and that’s not just healthy as in no disease or infirmity, but overall wellness as per the WHO definition.

That’s not to say we should chase every single fad that comes along in pursuit of wellness. And being able to afford weekly visits to the spa, the nutritional therapist, the best personal trainer money can buy, doesn’t guarantee that you can outperform everyone else, but it certainly might improve your stamina and general feeling of well-being, and therefore possibly your performance. In a way, wellness is akin to a performance-enhancing drug. Thankfully one that won’t get you disqualified. And as with other performance enhancers, the higher you are on the economic ladder, the better your chances at getting the body, mind, wellness you want. ML



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