Are wellness and technology a healthy mix? - Monocolumn | Monocle


A daily bulletin of news & opinion

16 April 2012

Few business sectors can feel as good about themselves as the wellness industry. Note that I don’t say health or fitness, but “wellness”, a more pervasive and all-encompassing ideal that has come to define our approach to our bodies – from the food we eat to the pills we take or the shoes we choose to pound the pavement in.

Whether you’re a fan of a morning swim or choose to spend your evenings contorting yourself into a human yogic pretzel, the chances are you’ve played your part in the $600bn (€461bn) global wellness market at some point.

Although the movement has roots in the 1950s, it’s become an unstoppable juggernaut in recent years as ageing, educated, and increasingly overfed societies attempt to pummel, medicate and massage their ballooning and sagging bodies into glossy magazine shapes. The market averaged 13 per cent growth in the US alone in 2011, and this is only set to boom as obesity in developing economies such as Brazil and China takes hold.

The gym used to be the high church of wellness but here too there’s been a subtle shift. The catchphrase is now “personal wellness” – a dispersed approach to staying healthy that apparently can’t be achieved in a 45 minute session on the running machine twice a week.

This has seen the tech market for personal wellness devices take off. Savvy operators are providing devices and mobile apps from pedometers to calorie monitors that allow people to calculate and control energy input and output – 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

I’m slightly uncomfortable with this so-called progress however. I take a boom and bust approach to my health – with my gym sessions existing as a counter balance to an after work drink and an indulgent dinner with friends. When I’m slogging away on a cross trainer, I’m not thinking of the body beautiful, but of the katsu curry that it allows me to eat at lunch. The gym is a necessary but contained evil – a reasonably unpleasant hour in the morning that allows me to live the life of a bon vivant for the rest of the day.

As with so many things, the technology of dispersal that apparently frees us up appears to come with a catch. Round the clock rolling news has arguably led to a shallower media dribble, rather than a satisfying session getting stuck into a newspaper or magazine, similarly this constant technological health watch means the end to guilt free indulgence.

So I’ll be avoiding the bleeping app that tells me how much water I’ve drunk and calibrates it against stairs climbed. I’ll stick to my boom and bust thank you very much.


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