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Dedicated recovery clubs tipped to become a trend

Buzz around recovery areas at PerformX
Remedy Place founder tips social wellness club sector for rapid growth
Thought leaders say the UK needs to catch up with the US in recovery areas
Health and fitness sector needs to own the wellbeing space
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University of Brighton
£23,144 to £25,138pa
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Recovery, social wellness and longevity were talking points at PerformX recently, tipped by many speakers as upcoming trends, while the exhibition halls featured infrared saunas, compression therapy and ice baths.

The UK is currently lagging behind the US – where ice bath searches increased by more than 500 per cent from 2022 to 2023 – but now this trend is starting to gain traction. Zynk Design owner, Stavros Theodoulou said he’s averaging an enquiry each week about setting up facilities based on recovery and social wellness, including a mix of traditional and infrared saunas, percussion guns, cryotherapy and ice baths.

Some operators are going further down the medical/biohacking route, such as Lunar Health Clubs which opens in Marlow in April. Theodoulou says many of these leads are coming from outside the health club industry.

Founder of one of the world’s first social wellness club, Remedy Place, Dr Jonathan Leary, gave the keynote speech. “Wellness is now a necessity not a luxury,” he said. “The pandemic showed people that our health is the most important thing in their lives. Our bodies are our number one asset, but we’re not given the instruction manual.” Leary says the health and fitness industry can step into this space.

Leary predicts that standalone social wellness clubs – allowing people to be sociable while practicing self-care – will become as big as gyms. They give the option of socialising without toxins and temptation and some medical functions, such as functional medicine and biohacking, outside of the stressful hospital environment.

“Life is stressful, loneliness is prevalent, people need to connect but most social experiences are filled with temptation and toxins,” he says. “The social wellness industry is growing and offers a great deal of untapped opportunity. We need to fix the loneliness problem and social wellness fills that gap of doing something sociable without booze.”

According to Deloitte, by 2040, 80 per cent of healthcare spend in the US will be preventative. “There is a drastic rise in people who are co-managing their health with complementary medicine, such as physiotherapists, chiropractors, Traditional Chinese Medicine, while hyperbaric chambers, saunas and ice baths are becoming more common in hotels, gyms and homes,” says Leary.

Leary plans to open two Remedy Places each year until he reaches 15 to 20 globally. A free educational platform is being launched, to broaden accessibility to the knowledge and to give back as a luxury brand. The Framework is based around seven pillars which touch every aspect of modern life: human connection, environments, time management, stress resilience, personal development, appearance and metrics to enhance a healthy lifestyle.

Other verticals are also being created to allow the benefits to trickle down.

Healthspan more important than lifespan

In his speech on longevity, Oli Patrick, said healthspan is now more desirable than lifespan: we’re living longer but we’re not living better, many of those years are spent with chronic bad health.

“Longevity is a boom topic, personalised medicine is growing fast and people are prepared to spend money to look after their wellbeing,” says Patrick.

He encourages health and fitness operators to own the wellbeing space: “Medicine is stuck in a treatment paradigm to catch people when they’ve slid into decline and bring them back to neutral, whereas the health and fitness industry has the opportunity to take them beyond neutral and into optimal functioning.

“We hold the toolkit and we need to engage people with longevity early,” he says. “Exercise is medicine: VO2 max is the best predictor of how long you will live. Doctors should be measuring it but don’t know how to improve it, whereas our industry does.”

Patrick urges the gym industry to move into the wellbeing space, going beyond addressing movement alone, and educating clients on nutrition, sleep/recovery, environment (ie minimising toxins) and how people think about themselves.

“We can give advice across the five domains which significantly boost biology,” he says. “We need to broaden our language and use of metrics to own the wellbeing space. No one else is currently helping people to do this.”

This thinking was echoed throughout the rest of the conference. Third Space CEO, Colin Waggett, said recovery is now one of the main growth areas, along with Reformer Pilates.

Indigo Fitness was showcasing its recovery suites, which include compression, vibration and infrared therapy, as well as massage guns. Product and technical manager, Jethro Stride, said there is a growing interest in recovery. Indigo Fitness is currently talking to the Ministry of Defence as well as high-end operators.

Joie Risk, managing director of infrared saunas, Sunlighten Saunas, said the UK has been trailing the US for the last five years but now interest is definitely building.

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