Rolling hills or serene beaches, sightseeing and good food—everyone loves a vacation. In the aftermath of quarantine that has gone on and off for more than one and half years, there has been a rising interest in taking a break from daily grind and going on a relaxing trip. In light of the pandemic, the importance of self-care, holistic health and mental rejuvenation is being talked about more than ever, and wellness tourism, which brings the elements of a vacation together with those of health and wellness practices, is predicted to be a rising trend.
According to a report by Global Wellness Institute, wellness tourism is predicted to grow at an average annual rate of 7.1 percent by 2022, higher than the 6.4 percent growth rate of global tourism itself. While going on adventure trips, treks, or spa retreats has been a vacation trend for the past decade, it is only recently that people are embarking on their own vacations centred around health and wellness. “Gone are the days when you spend your trip simply relaxing, binge-eating junk food or indulging in alcoholic beverages, and return home to find that your pre-vacation fitness has declined,” says Suresh Srinivasan, New-Delhi based marathoner and avid health and wellness enthusiast and blogger, who goes on a health holiday every few months to recharge himself. “Nowadays, people want to carry their workout routines and healthy habits along with them while on vacation, and also return with new motivation.”
Due to the cultural presence of ancient and alternative health practices, India is a hub of wellness tourism. From the Ayurvedic treatments on offer at Kerala, to the therapeutic meditation and fitness programs of Rishikesh, you can pick from the many options available across the country’s various tourist spots, curated for your health benefits. Or take your inspiration from Suresh, who took an impromptu trip to the tranquil Tirthan Valley, Kullu, Himachal Pradesh, and turned it into a running destination vacation, where they enjoyed staying at scenic locations, hill running, biking, paragliding, and healthy eating.
Benefits of a Health Holiday
1. Mix up your workout routine
The pursuit of fitness can often become monotonous. Engaging in the different kinds of fitness opportunities that wellness tourism spots can offer will help you to regain your energy and motivation. “These holidays help me prevent burnout: both fitness burnout, as well as burnout from my day-to-day routine,” says Suresh, who added a combination of meditation, walking, running, cycling and hiking to his trip.
Taking your fitness endeavours to new locations will also offer you new challenges. Says Suresh, “When I first walked for 5 kilometres to and from the Shivirama Camp in the middle of nowhere, my muscles were screaming because of how different walking on the hilly terrain was. But with more walking daily, I could adapt and acclimatise to the different demands of the hills, till I progressed to walking a total of 10 kilometres without getting tired. Then I could safely move onto hill running.” Take full advantage of your location and embrace the challenges, he advises.
2. Improve your physical fitness
If you associate vacations with weight gain and loss of fitness, it is time to reconsider the idea. “A health holiday will not only help you maintain your overall physical fitness, but can also potentially improve it through its unique challenges,” says Suresh. For example, hill walking or running can improve your overall running fitness and speed endurance. “Exercising in a scenic location, breathing in clean air and eating healthy can naturally detoxify your body, which will improve your fitness” says Suresh.
3. Undergo a digital detox
There has been a growing concern about our dependence on gadgets like smartphones, laptops and smart TVs over the past couple of years. The American Psychological Associations' 2018 survey noted that 18 percent adults report significant stress caused by technology. A study published in BMC Public Health in 2011 connected heavy technology use to sleeping problems. A digital detox will help you to significantly reduce such stressors, and teach you to be mindful. While taking a break from devices might seem impossible when you are in the city, on a vacation, they can easily take a backseat. Surrounding yourselves with nature and fun activities can help you with a digital detox.
4. Eat healthy, local foods
Nutrition is an important part of holistic well-being. In the Blue House by the River, at the foothills of the Great Himalayan National Park, where Suresh stayed for a while, he had his meals at eateries serving fresh local food. “Eating things like sauteed vegetables, freshly picked fruits, and drinking green or herbal tea every day was a conscious choice I made,” he says. Combining healthy eating and exercise will help you make the most of your fitness tour. Eating local produce is also an easy way to practice food sustainability—a concept in which you choose food that is healthful both for the environment and your body.
5. Rejuvenate your mind, body and spirit
If you are looking for an escape from the stress and monotony of your daily life, there is no better answer than a wellness trip. Apart from beautiful landscapes and calming locations that can take your mind off of your daily anxieties, physical activity will bump up the production of endorphins, your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. “When you return from your vacation, you return rejuvenated and ready to tackle the daily stress of your life,” Suresh Srinivasan tells us.