Many fans of history no doubt recall the first Age of Enlightenment from the late 1680s to mid 1700s. A time when the ideas of reason and philosophy began to take hold. Science, natural theories, reasoning, open conversation, large scale print distribution, and more began to take place through Europe, changing the face of history. Well I think we can now safely say we are entering the second Age of Enlightenment when it comes to health, fitness and wellness, and quite frankly, it’s about time.
I have been in the health and fitness industry for over 20 years now and have worked in every possible area of it; nutrition, supplements, fitness training, management, group coaching, sales, marketing, and education, and for a while the industry was looking quite bleak. In fact one of the primary reasons I left for my 6 years travels through Asia was because of what I saw, very immature and definite lines drawn between health and fitness, and a stark separation between body, mind and spirit.
The 90’s was the time I was introduced for the most part to “health”, but it couldn’t be truly so far from the truth. The 90’s was the beginning of the age of supplement marketing and large scale gym memberships. It was also a time and continued to be so until the late 2000s of a real divide between health and fitness. The focus was on simplistic aspects like protein, carbs, fats and the all mighty calorie. Very little focus was placed on micronutrients, no emphasis on lifestyle, and the gym was seen as the ONLY place one could “get a workout”.
In the mid to late 1990’s bodybuilding experienced a huge re-emergence as new designer drugs allowed for bodies to be created that no natural means could ever hope (and maybe even wish) to reach. However, the internet still was not a thing, so all the non-PHD health minded people, myself included, had for research and inspiration was print magazines like Muscle & Health, Ripped, Muscular Development, or in the best case Mens Health, which still to this day leaves a lot to be desired.
Then the mid 2000’s saw the explosion of CrossFit and various form of HIIT training around North America. In fact, Vancouver, where I am writing this article was the location of the very first non-American CrossFit box to ever open. And within only half a decade CrossFit boxes were popping up mere blocks apart. However, this message itself was it would turn out, a bit of a failure too; work hard, train hard, kill yourself in the gym. And CrossFitters (myself included at the time) had egos on them bigger than the mountains I look out at through this window at, with t-shirts taunting “Your workout is my warmup”, you go to a “Globo Gym” or even worse, depicting a puking clown as a badge of honor. As typical in North America, we love to take things to the extreme.
The late 90’s to early 2000’s also saw sweeping trends in nutrition; insane pre-workout formulas pumped full of colors and artificial sweeteners, smoothie and protein bar culture, superfoods of the month began to take hold, and it seemed every 6 months or so a new diet was proclaimed to be “our saving answer”. Atkins, the Master Cleanse, South Beach, high protein, The Zone, and of course the still somewhat present Paleo movement (partially a huge thanks to the explosion in CrossFit culture).
Before I go on, I’d like to point out that all these are not all bad, in fact they were needed. CrossFit got us back into using bodyweight, and focusing on ideas like mobility, range of motion, speed, power, and the use of free weights, while introducing a whole new generation back to barbells, conditioning and strength training and kettlebells, and I can honestly say, changed modern gyms for the better.
Bodybuilding also served a great purpose, and let’s be honest, a large # of CrossFitters find themselves drawn back into it after about age 35, yet still incorporating elements of their CrossFit days. Each modality of the past has its benefits, but we needed to learn where they fit, where they didn’t, who the benefitted most and who did not.
On the nutrition side, without all those failed experiments in diets, superfoods and crazy ingredient blends, we probably would not be where we are today. We needed to see the positive aspects of some higher fat in contrast to the low fat. We needed to see how some individuals responded so well, while others went down in flames. We needed to see what aspects of nutrition could help in our workouts, and which were a waste of time. And this has all lead to where we are now slowly beginning to trend towards health enlightenment and away from fads and trends, towards a holistic ideology.
If you listen to podcasts now a days (even these are a great trend), or follow the many great minds in health and fitness, you will soon start to see developing trends towards the complete breaking of the lines of health and fitness. I myself no longer often use the word ‘fitness’ as a descriptor. Why? Because ‘fitness’ is just a simple part of being healthy. I think we are starting to see the pedestal we have placed fitness on starting to decay and tumble. For a while we really saw fitness as completely separate from health, and we even named it the ‘fitness industry’ where in reality it’s really just a tool of the health industry as a whole, which is itself a larger piece of the Wellness Industry.
It’s about times these walls started to come down, and about time we started to see the clear truth which is we are all individuals. We all have different wants, different needs, different likes and different dislikes. And that there is so much more to complete picture of health than WODs, kale superfood smoothies and fish oils caps.
We are a non-divided, non-bordered blend of body, mind and spirit, and these cannot be seen as in any way individual or mutually exclusive of one another. What you eat affects your body, how you move affects your body, what kind of home you live in, what kind of air you breathe. All this affects your brain, which affects your thoughts (mind), and this affects your outlooks and your principles, passions and beliefs (spirt). It is basically impossible to divide the 3 the way we have in the past.
And the Wellness Industry is now rising to its rightful place, like a king of old overthrown, and back to reclaim his throne.
Think about it, 10 years ago, there was no DNA testing, very little talk on gut biome, very little talk on why we need to vary or exercise, why we need slower days, faster days, recovery days. We didn’t tell people how you need things like some CrossFit or HIIT, but mixed with some tempo based bodybuilding, and then some yoga, then some breathing practices, and even then, a lot of just good old walking. There was no emphasis on meditation, morning walks, recovery and decompression drills after workouts. We didn’t discuss the use of hot saunas, or cold exposure, or fecal transplants, or circadian rhythm management.
We didn’t discuss how EMF’s may negatively affect us. The benefits of Japanese Forest Bathing (Shinrin Yoku), Earthing in the sunrise dew covered grasses, or using Biophilic design in our homes and workplaces. We didn’t discuss the time restricted eating benefits, or the dangers of sitting and static lifestyle, or the benefits of a standing desk at work. We didn’t think about the concepts of personalized functional medicine, or focusing on your personal environments, or your social behaviours and the people around you. Nor did we discuss the internal thoughts and affirmations you tell yourself, and the way you see your world daily.
No. As I said before, we only focused on the most simplistic of concepts, guided by marketing, bias and popular trends over science, psychology and individual differences. Granted we still have a long way to go, and things like social media, celebrity endorsements and following the wrong people on IG just because they have a large following are still issues we deal with daily, but they are fading I think, and the real wellness intellectuals are now rising to the surface. And yes there will forever be silly trends, dumb workouts and ridiculous diets in this space, but thankfully with the way information travels now, they tend to fade faster than in the past.
I for one am excited about the direction we are heading and look forward to the next 10 years and beyond. Because of this direction in this wellness realm, I have now returned to North America, to share all that I have learned, while myself continuing to learn, and my academy, thrive Academy I hope will be a leader in this new direction, helping to educate and inspire the next generations of health leaders around the globe. While my thriveLife initiative I hope will help change idea on activity and fitness. And my Health By Design podcast will continue to seek out the answers and ideas we need to continue to evolve in this new realm of wellness understanding.
Welcome the The Second Age of Enlightenment. The Wellness Era. I truly hope you join it. And if this article and these ideas resonate with you, feel free to reach out to me to get on a coaching call via my contact page. Either in person or via Skype.
What about you? Are you happy to see the direction the health industry is going? Where do you think it could be made better?