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How COVID-19 Has Affected The Health & Wellness Industries

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Around the year 2010, it suddenly became “cool” to be healthy. Green juices, yoga mats, and boutique fitness classes became status symbols, and wellness products, companies, and experiences quickly ballooned into a $4.2 trillion industry (according to Global Wellness Institute). Fast forward to 2020, and experts say COVID-19 has affected the health and wellness industries like never before, exacerbating demand and global interest. But this time around, jade eggs and juice cleanses are taking a back seat.

“The virus exposed the terrible human cost of failing to control chronic, underlying conditions like hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and asthma,” says Beth McGroarty, Research Director at the Global Wellness Institute to The Zoe Report. “In turn, it immediately strengthened the case for serious, preventative wellness in the form of exercise, healthy eating, stress reduction, and sleep. Wellness is at a watershed moment where it could have a much bigger, more serious seat at the healthcare table.”

Erika Zauner, CEO of wellness platform Healthkick, echoes that sentiment, adding that “the Coronavirus pandemic has really made people reevaluate how they’re taking care of themselves,” she notes to TZR. “They’re realizing that wellness is not just a trend; it’s incredibly important to overall health.” Ahead, read up on how Coronavirus has changed the wellness industry, according to the experts.

How COVID-19 Has Affected Health & Wellness: People Are Taking Health & Wellness More Seriously

Studies and statistics confirm that people are more concerned with their health than ever. A cool 85 percent of people globally exercised during the pandemic, while 47 percent of people in the UK tried a new wellness practice and 61 percent say they value wellness more than ever before. “Health and wellness will remain a focus as the pandemic subsides and beyond,” says Michael Erwin, VP of Communications at SPINS, a wellness-focused data technology company, to TZR. “Health will factor into more everyday decisions than ever before.”

Wellness companies are poised to grow, even in the midst of a global economic downturn. “Investment in the wellness space is booming, which is an indication of what the markets think people will care about in the future,” explains McGroarty. Peloton’s stock is up 200 percent, Lululemon just bought digital fitness company Mirror in a $500 million deal, and companies like SoulCycle and Hers are expanding their offerings. “Spending on travel, fashion, and dining is down, while spending on wellness — healthy food, digital fitness classes, home wellness — is all up,” she adds. “While the wallet may have shrunk, wellness is a larger share of the wallet.”

How COVID-19 Has Affected Health & Wellness: Digital Wellness Is Flourishing

Many companies were forced to adopt digital models during COVID-19, and many did so with flying colors. “Anything digital thrived during the pandemic — virtual therapy, telemedicine, meditation apps, online fitness classes,” says McGroarty. Zauner shared that Healthkick's partner companies like Calm, Peloton, Jet Sweat, and Yoga International saw the number of downloads increase exponentially from March through June. “Companies are not going to give up these successful digital platforms; the future of wellness will be a hybrid model,” she adds.

The latest Samsung technology is a good example of what the future of wellness will look like. As of April 2020, the brand partnered with leading fitness brands to launch a comprehensive in-home fitness and wellness platform on its 2020 smart TVs. “I mean, we’re talking TVs with Fit Plan, Barre3, and Jillian Michaels classes baked in,” muses McGroarty. “This is very notable; it shows the growing reach of the digital wellness world.”

How COVID-19 Has Affected Health & Wellness: The Immunity Obsession Is Real

True to form, people became more concerned with their immunity during the pandemic. “Sales of immunity-boosting vitamins and supplements, functional beverages, and herbs and homeopathic items are expected to reach a combined total of $10 billion this year, which is a $1.5 billion increase since 2018,” says Erwin. But, as McGroarty notes, “any good science-based publication will tell you that exercise, stress reduction, quality sleep, and a varied and nutrient-rich diet are the key to strengthened immunity,” she explains. While taking supplements won’t hurt you, “it’s important to be aware of businesses that are preying on people’s fears and claiming that their products can boost immunity — most of us get the necessary nutrients through our diets.”

With that said, she doesn’t think the immunity focus is going anywhere. “I think the discussion will be centered around evidence-based ways to build a stronger immune system as well as inflammation’s role in disease, while things like colloidal silver and vitamin C IVs will get less attention.”

How COVID-19 Has Affected Health & Wellness: Celebrity and Influencer-Driven Wellness is Taking a Back Seat

Celebrity and influencer culture has taken a back seat during COVID in general, and this also applies to the wellness industry. “We’re seeing fatigue with the hysteria of celebrity culture right now,” notes McGroarty. “We’re living through serious times; we’re fighting for our lives. There’s more interest in certified practitioners — the really great meditation instructor or the amazing life coach could be considered the ‘influencers’ of the moment.” Strapped budgets also contribute to this heightened interest in evidence-based wellness. “Many people have taken economic cuts, and they want to invest in wellness that will actually work,” she adds. “People want more authenticity and legitimacy from the sources delivering their wellness.”

How COVID-19 Has Affected Health & Wellness: “Home Wellness” Is Trending

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McGroarty surmises that so-called “home wellness,” or the pursuit of curating a healthy and relaxing home, will continue to trend post-pandemic. “We spent all of our time at home during the last four months, and people are now bringing functional wellness into their spaces,” she notes. In addition to curating comfortable and anxiety-reducing sanctuaries, people are focusing on the “purity” of the home. “Homes can be a very powerful weapon in fighting contagions,” she explains. “As such, we’re seeing a rise in air purification systems, UV treatments, and antibacterial and antiviral surfaces.” Brands are even coming out with UV disinfectant boxes, wands, and phone sanitizers to kill viruses and bacteria.

How COVID-19 Has Health & Wellness: Mental Health Is More Important Than Ever

Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 has exacerbated our already staggering anxiety, depression, and burnout crisis. “Mental health experts say we’re going to experience new issues, like agoraphobia and PTSD,” says McGroarty. On the bright side, “people have developed a more holistic view of well-being that goes beyond just fitness,” adds Zauner. “We’re all grasping for some kind of stress management practice to help cope with the difficult times, which is what apps like Headspace, Talkspace, and BetterHelp were designed for.” According to a report from Sensor Tower, mental health and wellness apps generated two million more downloads in April 2020 than January 2020.

In the future, McGroarty expects interesting developments in the medicinal psychedelics field. “We’re seeing a lot of medical research about the mental health benefits of psilocybin,” she explains. “Companies like Mind Medicine are raising millions of dollars in funding.”

How COVID-19 Has Health & Wellness: New Age & Traditional Spirituality Has Surged

“Spirituality — shamans, crystals, soundbaths, psychics, religion — was a huge trend pre-COVID, and now we’re seeing even more of a surge,” says McGroarty. She cites a study from the University of Copenhagen that found that Google searches for “prayer” doubled across 75 countries for every 80,000 new cases of the Coronavirus. “People are seeking some kind of comfort in belief, and I see that only getting bigger.” Traditional religions including Catholicism and Judaism are even getting into wellness programming. “They’re offering things like online fitness classes,” she explains. “There’s a developing crossover between wellness and religion, which has only been heightened during COVID.”

How COVID-19 Has Health & Wellness: Even Travel Will Be Focused on Wellness

The travel industry has been temporarily decimated by the Coronavirus, but so-called “wellness travel” has been trending in countries that have eased restrictions. “People are seeking really remote, nature-filled destinations,” explains McGroarty. “These places are naturally sociallydistanced, so people feel more safe.” Beyond safety, people are looking to heal — they’re craving fresh air, natural beauty, stress-reduction, and exercise. “Everything from hiking or cycling tours to glamping and yoga retreats are growing in popularity.”