8 health and wellbeing trends that could boost your business


William HighamGrowing numbers of consumers are taking greater ownership of their health, which offers a potential tonic for businesses too, as Will Higham explains

In a disorderly world, consumers are focusing on the few things they can control. Distrustful of big banks? There’s a fintech app for that. Want to avoid the threat of redundancy? Become an entrepreneur. The wellbeing trend, in which people are taking more responsibility for their own health, epitomises this movement. Sales in this market are rocketing – the Global Wellness Institute believes that it’s worth £3.25 trillion. Here’s a selection of wellbeing trends that offer opportunities across a range of industries.

We are all waking up to the importance of sleep to our mental health. Books on the topic have become bestsellers, while the number of searches on Pinterest for “sleep optimisation” increased 116 per cent last year. There’s growing interest too in the restorative power of sleep to ward off chronic ailments. It’s part of a broader trend for recovery and self-care – cherishing, rather than pushing, our bodies.

One widely suggested sleep cure is to reduce exposure to HEV, the blue light emitted by most mobile devices. With some studies suggesting a link to cancer, might it become the new UV? If so, there’ll be potential for “anti-HEV” goods. This is part of a growing consumer desire to fight the toxic effects of the modern world. The next battleground is the home: concerns that cleaning products are weakening our immune systems will drive sales of “microbiome-friendly” alternatives.

In recent years the fitness industry has focused on fast and furious stress-busting workouts, but we’re seeing a rise in mellower methods. Low-intensity steady-state programmes provide a long period of gentle exertion. This reflects a growing interest in evening gym sessions rather than morning ones. Later workouts are potentially more effective and – cross-trend alert – they help you to sleep better. Asics’ new running track (pictured, top) takes a similarly mindful approach: apart from a spotlight for the runner, the circuit is pitch black, providing no piped music or any other unnecessary stimulation.

Busy Britons are looking for ways to get healthier without leaving the house. Sales of home testing kits for everything from cholesterol to STIs are up. High-end home fitness product sales are also rising – Peloton launched a treadmill last year retailing at £3,000. Or how about a £1,200 interactive mirror that streams live fitness classes and offers you tailored advice? The market’s growing for cheaper alternatives too – Pinterest searches for “resistance-band workouts” rose 2,000 per cent last year.

We can’t stay at home forever, though. Despite the advance of videoconferencing, expenditure on business travel continues to increase. Travellers and their employers are seeking ways to ensure their healthy performance on arrival. AI-powered virtual assistants such as 30SecondsToFly’s Claire can make long-haul jet-setting a less onerous experience, while hotel chains are starting to deliver hyper-personalised services – for instance, beds that will adjust to each guest’s firmness preference and even biometric bathroom tiles that will assess your state of health. Alternative hang-outs to the hotel bar are developing too, such as The Assemblage, a wellness-focused co-working space in New York.

Disillusioned with faddish health regimes, more and more consumers are looking back to a “wiser” age. There has been a 269 per cent increase in the number of food products using the word “ancient” on their packaging in the past five years, for instance. Ancient grains such as bulgur, millet and sorghum are gaining credence as a solution to gluten intolerance.

Antioxidant-rich superfoods such as blueberries are so last year. It’s all about adaptogens now. Some of these herbs improve sleep (ashwagandha) while others fight stress (astragalus) or aging (maca). A newly legal addition in the UK is cannabis-based CBD oil, which could enter the mainstream this year. Perhaps counterintuitively, it will power beverages purported to improve drinkers’ concentration.

Community and competition both have a positive effect on our health. Fitness could be the new communal leisure activity – only 12 per cent of Britons visited a bar or club last month, according to Mintel, yet 21 per cent went to a gym. Fitness First has recorded a significant increase in attendance at its gyms on Friday nights, while Right Path Fitness has just launched a “Date-ercise” class. The volunteer-led parkrun movement has become hugely popular. Many runners compare their times globally via tracker- based competitions such as Reebok’s Crossfit Games. As the tech gets smarter, how long before they start comparing their health stats too?

Will Higham is a consumer strategist, futurist, speaker and founder of Next Big Thing. Share your thoughts with him via next-big-thing.net

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William Higham

William Higham

William Higham is the founder and CEO of consumer trends consultancy Next Big Thing.

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