Throughout the decades, health trends have experienced many reinventions, readjustments, and revisions. Whether it’s Greek muscle men lifting Halteres (what we now call dumbbells), 1980s VHS aerobic workouts, or modern wearable technology, the evolution of exercise methods may sometimes move faster than our understanding of what good health actually means.
Things that were once deemed healthy many years ago are now understood to be bad for our health. That acknowledgement of our past mistakes is what keeps us searching for better health and new advancements in wellness.
But first, in order to better understand where the trends are headed, let’s take a look at what we define as health.
“If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.”
The term health covers a broad spectrum of areas, but can generally be described as being in a state of good physical and mental wellbeing.
A more modern definition of health would also include the notion of striving to maintain a strong balance between all aspects of your wellbeing in everyday life, no matter how large or small the action.
To achieve better overall health through this state of physical and mental wellbeing, Psychology Today lists five main areas of focus:
The ability to control your stress management, and muster emotions that develop into good feelings.
The ability to keep and maintain a healthy functioning body through exercise.
The ability to create meaningful relationships with others, and a sense of belonging within a group.
The ability to feel supported and valued in the workplace, and to be professionally content.
The ability to be an active part of a culture or community, and to not be hindered by factors like education or economic status.
But how healthy is our wellbeing? The graphs below provide some insights into the UK health and wellbeing from January to March 2012-2020.
This focus on 2020 data in particular shows how the external factors of the world (such as Brexit and coronavirus) can affect overall health and wellbeing. The increased levels of anxiety and decreased levels of happiness are in direct correlation with England exiting the EU, and pre-lockdown worries nationwide.
Now that we know the five main areas of wellbeing required to achieve good health, and have seen how the world around us can affect it, let’s look into the key areas of health.
While the definition of the word has changed and evolved over the centuries, there are still three primary types of health, and they tend to fall under the following areas:
Physical Health. Physical health is defined as being in good physical condition and free from ailments of the body. A person who is in prime physical condition has a body that functions well.
Good physical health practices include exercise, keeping away from alcohol and cigarettes, and maintaining a healthy and nutritious diet.
Emotional Health. Contrary to popular belief, being in sound emotional health doesn’t mean being constantly happy. Instead, it relates to our capabilities to cope with everyday events in our lives, and our capacity to handle our own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.
Good emotional health practices include being aware of your emotions and communicating your emotions in an effective and socially appropriate manner.
Mental Health. Perhaps the most difficult of the main three types of health to summarise, good mental health alludes to the ability to not only deal with emotions but how our brains process and interpret information.
Over the years, we’ve come to understand further how both physical and mental health work in tandem. In fact, all three of these areas have a direct impact on one another. For example:
Source: Mental Health Foundation
The notion of good physical health influencing your overall wellbeing is not a new concept. However, the channels and methods through which we practice them are evolving.
There was a time when physical health tips and tutorials weren’t easily accessible. Technology has created the ultimate opportunity for busy career types, stay-at-home workers, and anything in between to fit in exercise around their busy schedules.
“If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”
New avenues of health and wellness are being cultivated out of these technological advancements, and it’s giving the world more access to physical health aides. In the UK, this includes the following developments established during the pandemic:
of people took phone consultations with their doctor or nurse during the pandemic.
of people were able to order a repeat prescription online.
of people used the National Health Service website for additional health information and support.
of people are now using a National Health Service device to monitor their health.
Source: The Health Foundation survey
One of the most fascinating things to have come out of 2021 is the change in the way people exercise. While the world has found itself locked indoors and restrictions have prevented outdoor activities, it seems like many aspects of the exercise industry are thriving.
According to this year’s Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2021, we have seen a year that has closed gyms, opened online workouts, and challenged fitness professionals to adapt their marketing and relationship-building strategies like never before.
Some of these statistics will come as no surprise, while others give an insight into a potential restlessness and desire to return to pre-COVID ‘normality’:
Online training is the number one fitness trend globally for 2021, compared to ranking at number 26 in 2020.
Continued innovations have kept wearable technology ranking high at number 2. It has previously ranked number 1 every year but one over the last 5 years.
Despite COVID, outdoor activities have risen from 13th place in 2020 to number 4 this year.
Fitness programs for the elderly continue to stay in the top 10.
These statistics offer an insight into the evolution of physical health. New avenues of exercise have created newer ways for physical health professionals to gain clients and enlist those who would usually not set foot in a gym.
It also shows a desire for many to go back outside to the great outdoors and exercise socially. Regardless, the innovations of technology have made it so that people now have a physical health routine that’s customised to their needs, that can fit around their schedules.
Perhaps as a reaction to COVID-19 and a desire to have the choice of being outdoors again, outside exercise activities remain a popular option.
While inactivity has always been one of the main contributors to poor health, the pandemic has meant that even more people have remained indoors. People who regularly exercise seem keen to get outside, but this lack of movement for many could be a larger problem in itself.
Inactivity is a worry, and it doesn’t just begin and end with mental and physical factors. When it comes to inspiring people to get out and about, it’s interesting to note that it seems the better quality of life someone has, the less active they tend to be.
According to the World Health Organization, this reduction in physical activity can have some powerful ramifications, both on the individual and the greater economy as a whole.
This inactivity has the potential to be greatly diminished with the accessibility of innovative health and wellness trends, which in turn, will help boost both mental and physical health.
While being outside again is important for the overall health of the individual and the economy as a whole, The New York Times reported on a worrying increase in childhood obesity in 2020, as well as the potential long-term effects of such an illness.
39 million children under 5 years old were listed as overweight or obese in 2020.
Source: World Health Organization
While physical activity guidelines are in place to help prevent childhood health issues, the unexpected impact of the coronavirus has made implementing them difficult.
From looking at the below statistics from 2018/2019, it’s easy to see why these guidelines for 2020 were put into action:
Obesity in UK children in reception class 2017/2018
Obesity in UK children in reception class 2018/2019
Obesity in UK children in year six class 2018/2019
Physical health initiatives couldn’t have been implemented at a better time, with obesity and inactivity in adults putting a strain on hospitals over 2019/2020.
As previous statistics have confirmed, a lack of activity not only affects your physical health – it can affect overall mental health too. With the above percentages in mind, it’s important to gain a better understanding of mental health itself.
While the reasons for a greater emphasis on mental health tend to come from difficult situations, the correlation between physical and mental health, and how it can affect wellness, is a welcome one.
“Your body hears everything your mind says.”
While the world has adapted to new challenges, our collective mental health has been under the microscope. The pressures of modern living and greater access to educational materials has paved the way for mental health to be a less taboo subject, one that’s now being implemented into the overall notion of complete wellness.
As the trends and statistics for health and wellness 2021 show, people aren’t only considering physical exercise when implementing a good health regime. Mental health matters are just as important in the modern world as other health concerns.
1 in 4
experience some kind of mental health problem
1 in 8
adults will seek help for a mental health problem
With the added stresses of COVID-19, potential job safety, and other elements adding to the strain of peoples’ mental health, it’s no surprise that depressive symptoms are on the rise. In March 2021, ONS reported the following:
It doesn’t just end with those who are able to stay home either. The added stress that COVID-19 has put on essential workers has seen a worrying increase in mental health concerns for those on the front lines of the pandemic across the world. According to Amnesty International, 75% of healthcare professionals in Portugal reported being at a high level of anxiety, and 57% of nurses described their sleep patterns as “bad” to “very bad”. Similar patterns would have been experienced around the world.
Through tiredness, stress, and anxiety, health workers are now pushing their mental health to the limit while saving lives and helping others.
While essential workers and adults feel the brunt of compounding worries, young people are becoming increasingly isolated and anxious. With teens learning how to spend their formative years in previously unforeseen circumstances, and educational institutions opening and closing continually, children are finding themselves lost and unsure of themselves.
The following statistics are from a survey conducted with 2,438 young people from January 2021 to February 2021:
With obstacles and problems seemingly around every corner, all age groups are experiencing worry and concerns. Generally speaking, the worries fall under many of the same categories discussed in health and wellness factors, with added concerns for the wellness of others.
In a study for Young Minds, young people were asked to admit their main worries, and what was impacting their mental health the most. The most consistent responses are below:
Loneliness or isolation
Concerns about school, college or university work
Not being able to do activities you would normally do
Concerns about someone you know becoming ill
Not being able to get the mental health support needed
Relationships with people they live with
Concerns about getting a job
Concerns about getting ill themselves
How young people are portrayed in media
Considering these concerns are mainly in relation to the worst parts of the global lockdown over the last year and a half, it’s easy to see how these worries can grow into serious mental health problems in the long term.
Not only this, as our understanding of mental health affecting physical health grows, we can identify the potential for physical health issues developing as a result of this. The Mental Health Foundation have elaborated on this, stating that:
“Mental health problems can come with physical symptoms. Our bodies and minds are not separate, so it’s not surprising that mental ill health can affect your body. Depression can come with headaches, fatigue and digestive problems, and anxiety can create an upset stomach, for example. Other symptoms can include insomnia, restlessness and difficulty concentrating.”
It seems that uncertain times are creating more worries, which in turn, are affecting physical and mental health continually. What’s more, it seems that many of our everyday environments such as the workplace and educational institutions aren’t being considered a safe place to open up about mental health issues.
In the Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2021, mental health-focused activities such as yoga, lifestyle medicine, and wellness coaching were all in the top 20.
Despite being a long-standing method of improving mental health and practising mindfulness, yoga received a giant boost over the last fifteen months. The most common reason given for practising yoga in the UK and Europe is mindfulness (39%), then fitness (19%). Some even admitted to doing so in the hopes of alleviating a mental health problem (6%). Other interesting statistics include:
Source: Finances Online
The benefits of yoga include:
Relieves stress and anxiety
Good for your heart and blood pressure
Improves your mental health
Better flexibility and balance
More controlled breathing
As you can see, yoga ticks just about every box on the health and wellness checklist. Not only that, but it can be done from home, or outdoors, within a safe distance of others.
If health and wellbeing represents a broad spectrum of areas, think of wellness as the practice of harnessing each and every aspect of what you know about health into a lifestyle that’s implemented daily.
Wellness initiatives in the workplace and in everyday life have seen significant growth over the past few years, with the modern perspective being that wellness is just as much an individualistic endeavour as it is an external one.
“A healthy outside starts on the inside.”
Due to the fact that wellness can be anything from an individual feeling right up to the pursuit of global wellbeing, the definitions of wellness can vary greatly depending on the person. However, as a general rule, the following eight areas tend to be defined as good examples of wellness:
As you can see, some of these wellness areas are offshoots of the three main areas of health (physical, mental and emotional). But they delve further into the other factors that can affect health, including existential, spiritual, and financial elements too.
Many modern wellness trends focus on celebrating self-care and community ethics, in addition to finding a healthy balance of inner peace and outer confidence to achieve goals.
While what we define as healthy, whether through medical advice, advancements in science, or otherwise, has changed drastically over the decades, there’s still a clear and universal understanding of it.
Wellness has a much more ambiguous definition depending on things like goals, culture, and individual mindsets.
Wellness was a popular staple of many ancient Greek and Chinese practices thousands of years ago. It was celebrated as a means to prevent illness. Despite the concept of wellness being familiar, it didn’t reintroduce itself into modern western culture until the 1980s.
From the 1980s up to the early 2000s, the seeds were planted for workplace wellness initiatives that would grow exponentially over the next 20 years. Wellness gurus became household names, and these decades set in motion the inevitable growth that wellness would achieve heading into the 21st century.
The effects of COVID-19 have seen obstacles, but also hopefulness. With mental and physical health under considerable strain, it seems that people are ready to embrace wellness as a means to improve their lives.
Forbes reported on a survey taken by biotechnology company Gelesis where over 1,000 Americans were asked about their health and wellness in 2020.
of people had gained weight throughout 2020
of people admitted to feeling down about their appearance
Despite the pandemic, or perhaps even because of it, there were also some interesting shifts.
of people said that they were more determined than ever to develop healthier eating habits
are determined to maintain healthier lifestyle habits
This leads us to the positive uptrends in wellness within the workplace and the rise in popularity of wellness coaching.
Mental health organisations like Mind provide free Wellness Action Plans for employees and managers to help create a happy, productive workforce and a better understanding of both sides moving forward.
Putting these essential elements in place will likely reduce the burden of the individual, and put the heavy lifting on the shoulders of employers to keep abreast of general team mood, and stress levels.
Workplace worries are also understandable when you take the economic implications of a post-COVID workplace. Whether businesses remain prosperous or not, there’s potentially no going back to a traditional work setting.
Workplace wellness initiatives were beginning to gain momentum pre-COVID-19, but companies are now having to adapt to much larger issues. Not only this, with the rise of automated management systems and e-commerce, the future work environment is potentially just as unclear to adults as it is to young people.
As something of a hybrid between physical science and mental therapy, wellness coaching has helped to unify the concepts of health and wellness into a singular modern approach to good mental health care.
An all-encompassing method of mental and physical wellbeing, people use wellness coaches for anything from losing weight and managing ailments to quitting smoking or overcoming emotional eating.
Improved bood pressure
Improved body mass index
Improved cardiorespiratory fitness
While the fallout of COVID-19 and its global ramifications are still a little uncertain, it has also shed light on the importance of not only implementing good health practices but sticking to them daily.
“To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”
In 2018, the World Health Organisation began steps to ensure health and wellness remained a pivotal part of global sustainability. By launching their policy, titled ‘Global Action Plan on Physical Activity 2018-2030’, WHO had already responded to the calls for a health and wellness plan before COVID-19 was in existence.
Here are just a few of the goals highlighted in the action plan:
For countries, cities and communities to take action throughout all global, local and regional areas.
A global reduction in physical inactivity by 15% by 2030.
A global action plan that can be customised to suit all areas, cultures and classes of people.
Implementing a new process of a Global Physical Activity Questionnaire (GPAQ) to help countries monitor progress and assess risk factors.
The goals set out in this action plan spoke loud and clear about the future of health and wellness in a post-COVID world. The foundations of traditional good health practices remained, but variables such as geographical location, quality of life, and accessibility were also recognised as key factors of poor health.
It’s abundantly clear from these statistics that mental and physical health need equal care and attention for better overall wellness. With COVID-19 meaning that many of us now work from home, the workplace can mean less hassle in your morning commute, but a much more stressful experience in new and unforeseen ways.
The lack of exterior mental health support systems and exterior physical health amenities has given way to a more insular approach to wellness. One that focuses on the individual’s progress through routine, flexibility, and interactive action plans.
By taking these small steps, the notion of personal wellness and overall health feels less overwhelming and more manageable for people. From the comfort of their homes, it seems like the importance of maintaining health and wellness has caught on with people.
While these small steps are promising, it’s important to be mindful of COVID-19 being far from over, and the long-term effects it may yet have on our overall health.
It’s looking more and more likely that the future of health and wellness trends will be hybrids, both technically and emotionally.
Just as traditional gyms used new technology to adapt their classes, and just as lifestyle medicine and wellness coaching has used data-driven science to create programs for both physical and mental health, new trends will adapt to the world around us.
And there’s certainly an appetite for any trend that keeps wellness and health at the forefront.
Source: McKinsey & Company
In “Feeling Good: The Future of the $1.5 Trillion Wellness Market”, McKinsey & Company lists the six dimensions in which consumers now view wellness:
And as the trends and statistics of 2021 have shown us, all of these six things can now be accessed from the comfort of your own home.
It seems that while the world has been dealing with COVID, people are beginning to turn their living space into the ultimate combination of workspace, gym, meditative area, and mindfulness sanctuary.
With the growth of online exercises and home working, companies may soon adapt to these fresh changes even more, and begin cultivating personalised innovations that interact and encourage mindfulness.
In a list of the most popular spiritual influencers online, we can perhaps predict that 2022 trends will fall less on the traditional return to brick and mortar gyms, and more on social media influencers who offer tips, insights, and a more personalised approach to health and wellness.
Much like Alexa and Google voice technology are implementing AI advancements to entice and keep consumers engaged, the future of health and wellness may be the bridge between physical health, mental health, and an even more personalised experience.
As stated in our introduction, the evolution of health and wellness tools have previously been faster than the global understanding of what those terms means to modern living.
With these statistics in mind, and COVID-19 making these exciting new combinations of technology and human interaction an everyday part of modern life, we are finally at a place where understanding and technology are nose to nose heading into 2022.