“Hip to Be Fit” – our US intern’s take on the global reach of the extreme wellness trend

Wellness

Hi, I’m Zoë Fried, Rochester PR’s 2019 US  intern. As a lifelong inhabitant of New York City, I’ve been able to witness a fair number of trends rise and fall across practically every industry—from the instant popularity of the ever elusive, putatively sublime ‘cronut’, to the style that couldn’t fall out of favour soon enough of adolescent boys wearing jeans with their waistbands belted at mid-thigh, to the age of novelty Japanese erasers, just to name a few. Yet no trend has come close to the ubiquity of the wellness and self-care movement. Boutique fitness studios and smoothie bars densely populate Manhattan and the outer boroughs. People of all ages hurry along the sidewalks donned in athletic clothing, healthy beverage in hand. And the wellness craze has global reach, too—even here in the UK, far across the Atlantic, Londoners can be found rushing out of Tube stations to their BoomCycle, Sweat IT, or Gymbox classes.

So, I feel fairly confident in what I am about to say next: most of us have at least one of that friend—you know, the one who incessantly touts the benefits of drinking celery juice every morning, frequently reminds the people around them to drink more water, and always details the latest exercise class they’ve just tried, seemingly for hours on end. While you may find your enthusiastically healthy friend to be a tad (or more than a tad) irritating, consider the extreme wellness movement.

Gaining popularity among the Millennial and older post-Millennial generations, extreme wellness is truly deserving of its name. A recent article that appeared in The Telegraph by Radhika Sanghani: “Raw water, sky running and sweat lodges – would you risk your life in pursuit of extreme wellness?” featured three partakers, including a 29-year-old man who exclusively drinks raw water from a stream on his family’s land, a father of two who runs at least twelve miles (roughly 19 km) every day, and a yoga teacher who swears by sweat lodges, in which one alternates between sweating in a 39C room and bathing in freezing water.

Needless to say, extreme wellness has the potential to be quite dangerous. Sanghani reports that untreated water can potentially contain harmful bacteria, including listeria and E. coli. Running very long distances frequently can be straining, and cause injury. Extreme temperatures can cause the body to go into a state of shock.

You may think the aforementioned individuals utterly mad, but before you dismiss extreme wellness as being the trend for obsessive health nuts, consider this: around two out of every three people in the United Kingdom are overweight. Roughly one third of the total population of the UK is obese (included in the overweight statistic). These numbers can be attributed to a handful of factors. Mostly, it is because fast food is widely available, cheap, and, well, fast. Overconsumption is inevitable.

On the other hand, eating clean is much less accessible. Not only is it significantly more expensive, it takes much longer to prepare. Many would rather eat quickly and cheaply than spend their free time and hard-earned money on meal-prepping and grocery shopping. And those costs don’t count the price of a gym membership, or even include simply the time it would take to exercise.

However, extreme wellness can be comparatively cheap. For example, fasting costs nothing, and while it can be dangerous if done improperly, when done correctly, can help individuals lose weight in a sustainable way. Foraging for food, if one lives in a place where that is possible, and knows which plants to avoid, is also completely free, and probably one of the healthiest ways to eat.

Does this mean that we should all put down our burgers and chips and move to the countryside? Of course not. But perhaps we should be grateful that it’s becoming fashionable to be healthy considering the general fitness of this country, and regard extreme wellness with an open mind.