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We’re loving the trend for healthy hedonism – it’s all about increasing your well’th (see what we did there?) without skipping the fun
he old me? A standard Friday night would be spent with mates and a few G&Ts. But the new me has swapped pub crawls for catch-ups over kale smoothies with girlfriends in the café of my local gym, fresh from the sweaty circuit class we’ve done. And it’s not just so we can eye up hot personal trainers. Nope, I have a confession to make – I’ve become a healthy hedonist. And I’m not alone.
Globally, more of us are merging wholesome pursuits with our social lives, and wellness is losing its reputation as (yawn-)worthy and becoming a byword for fun as a result. ‘Call it what you like – healthy hedonism, weekend wellness, healthonism – there’s a real movement towards it,’ says Shepherd Laughlin, director of trend forecasting at JWT Intelligence.
‘The concept emerged around 2012, after a spike in “aspirational” trends such as wearable fitness trackers, celebrity-approved workout regimes (think CrossFit and SoulCycle) and drinks like cold-pressed juice and kombucha [fermented black or green tea],’ he adds. ‘Essentially, millennials are thinking about wellness in a new way, and that’s opening everyone up to the idea that staying healthy and having fun don’t need to be two separate ambitions.’
Need more persuasion? Then look at it this way: it’s recommended that we do at least 150 minutes of exercise a week. And working out with friends has serious benefits – research has found that pals who do it together train harder, burn more calories and are more regular gym-goers. Plus, working out to good music can boost your motivation, and sports scientists at Brunel University found it can even enhance your endurance by 15%. Which is probably why gyms around the UK are doing their utmost to make classes feel like a night out, not a boring obligation.
Big chains such as Virgin Active and Fitness First have followed the lead of hip London studios Psycle and 1Rebel by dimming the lights and cranking up specially tailored music playlists, creating an atmosphere that’s more nightclub than fitness club. Dance aerobics classes such as Clubbercise have popped up nationwide, too – complete with disco lights and club hits from the 90s to present day (you even get glow sticks!).
‘By taking the fun elements of partying and incorporating them into exercise, there’s no danger of feeling like you’re missing out if you choose to spend your evenings planking with your friends instead of heading to the pub,’ says celebrity psychologist Emma Kenny.
Then there are the new gourmet cafés and restaurants being set up in fitness studios, encouraging post-burpee socialising. David Lloyd’s DLicious cafebars include adult-only lounges where you can kick back with the girls and enjoy nutritious, low-cal dishes. Meanwhile, London gym Frame has Fuel cafés, where you can gossip with your friends over a (delicious) post-HIIT-class protein bowl.
By taking the fun elements of partying and incorporating them into exercise, there’s no danger of feeling like you’re missing out
‘Workouts used to be secretly sandwiched into schedules before work or between plans with friends,’ says Pip Black, co-founder of Frame. ‘But now we’re seeing more people block out time before and after their fitness sessions to eat and drink with their exercise buddies, laughing and sharing stories, just as if they were propping up a bar.’
Emma believes one of the key factors in the increasing popularity of healthy hedonism is that it’s the ultimate in killing two birds with one stone. ‘Most women are both time-poor and body-aware, so they’re naturally seeking opportunities to cater for their wellbeing and social lives in tandem,’ she says. ‘It’s a perfect mix – sharing activities with friends is great for bonding. Plus, it helps keep your fitness on track without your friendships suffering.’
For sports psychologist and founder of fitness start-up Baby2Body, Melinda Nicci, it’s a change to be celebrated. ‘Women, especially the mums I know, used to be embarrassed to admit how much time and effort they were investing in their health, which meant it was often the first thing to drop off the to-do list,’ she says. ‘Now, giving socialising a wellness spin is becoming not just acceptable but fashionable: turning up to the school run in your gym kit and with a green juice is likely to earn you more approving looks than toting a designer bag and a latte. All of this motivates us to make more beneficial choices.’
There are other ways of doing the health/fun mash-up – such as the new wave of dry (aka teetotal) bars opening up and down the country. Cool London gastrobar Redemption sparked the trend, serving mocktails such as the Coco-rita – a coconut water, lime and birch syrup ‘frozen margarita’, blitzed with ice and rimmed with Himalayan mountain salt. Elsewhere, Liverpool’s The Brink and Nottingham’s Café Sobar are booze-free, so you can socialise over a cocktail without the toxins.
Even alcoholic tipples are getting a makeover. ‘People are seeking the healthy option behind the bar,’ explains mixologist Nick Whitby, head of bars at New World Trading Co. ’This has led to the creation of vegetable-based mixes and low-sugar versions of classic cocktails. Coconut water is making its way onto a lot of menus, and kale is a popular base ingredient in smoothies.’
Health is also meeting hedonism via the growing pack of festivals and retreats geared around mind/body-boosting. Even stalwarts like Bestival are in on the act – one of the event’s top attractions last year was a new wellness retreat offering spinning, meditation and cold-pressed juices (meaning you get an energy reboot so you can keep dancing!). Then there are tailor-made packages, such as Soul Circus in the Cotswolds – three days of all the yoga you could want, with a side serving of sun, fresh food and local booze.
Richard Branson is getting involved in the trend, too. He’s launched Virgin Sport, creating active events that have the let-your-hair-down feel of a music festival. Yep, the whole family (or your friendship gang) can go, take a picnic, listen to music and do fitness classes like yoga or bootcamp, or compete in sports such as half-marathons. The first one in the UK is on 30 April in Hackney, London, followed by 9 July in Westminster.
There’s even the world’s first dedicated wellness island, Obonjan, located off the coast of Croatia. It accommodates 445 guests in bell tents or safari-tent-style ‘lodges’, and offers a mixture of wellbeing and recovery, DJs and live music, great food and drink, comedy, cinema, talks and workshops, art and installations, sports, and boutique retail. Think a Zen Ibiza.
Fun times with friends and family that keep your body at its best and your health goals on track? Sign. Us. Up.
Here’s how to get involved
The love child of aerobics and raving, you’ll dance/sweat away in your Lycra, glow sticks in hand. The best thing? In the dark, no one can see (read: judge) your moves or perspiration levels.
These pre-work, sober dance-party ‘raves’ regularly take place from 6.30am to 10.30am in London, Manchester and Liverpool, with plans for more regional parties in the pipeline.
Secret Yoga Club
From retreats and classes to Zen supper clubs (think yoga followed by dinner), this London company will be announcing regional events throughout 2017.
Healthy hedonist must-haves
This glow-in-the-dark Scünci Sports Glow Headwrap in Black, £7.50/750 points, is perfect for Clubbercise.Currently Unavailable
Protein shakers are de rigueur nowadays: try the Lean Nutrition Shaker Boots.com only £1.99/ 199 points (700ml).Currently Unavailable
The Fitbit Alta Fitness Wristband in Black Boots.com only (see online for details) is super sleek.Currently Unavailable
A post-workout ‘it’ snack? This energy bar has no added sugar: Squirrel Sisters Raw Snack Bar, £2/200 points.In store only