New trends in fitness holidays

We live an ever more urbanised, gadget-driven and high-tech existence, our days punctuated by beeps, pings and the grinding roar of the NutriBullet. No wonder we need a break from it.

Luxury on holiday is being redefined as we turn away from glitz and bling, and aim to bring more of the natural world into our lives. And on our quest for total wellness a holiday is increasingly the time and place to find space and simplicity, the silence we crave to just think and be, and work on our mental and physical well-being.

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Eastern Europe as a health and wellness destination

Why: Until the collapse of communism in 1989, Eastern European countries gave their citizens free annual stays at sanatorium-like spas, dispensing medical, dental and fitness treatments with zero charm but impressive efficiency. Many of those Soviet-era sanatoriums are now being repurposed into luxury wellness centres for international visitors, with Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, and Montenegro aiming to copy the success Hungary is having with its dental clinics and spas; Croatia, Slovakia and Slovenia with their purpose-built medi-spas, excellent for rehabilitation; and the Czech Republic with its refurbished grand old spa hotels. In Latvia, on the pine-fringed miles-long Jurmala Beach on the Baltic coast, the Balans International Wellness Centre is already popular for its mix of high-tech and natural treatments. Nearby, the massive Kemeri, a former sanitorium, which in Soviet times had 100 doctors, is being revamped as a five-star hotel and clinic, opening in late 2017. Meanwhile, international names jumping on the bandwagon include Six Senses in Kazakhstan and Henri Chenot in Azerbaijan.

Who’s going: Those who realise Eastern European wellness centres rival Western Europe’s counterparts for expertise, beat them on price, and now do service with a smile, not a snarl.

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Austria as the go-to destination for health and fitness

Why: As “not moving” is the new health hazard (the Global Wellness Institute calculated the global cost of physical inactivity to healthcare systems atDh235 billion) and we learn that sugar, more than fat, causes weight gain, and that a healthy gut microbiome is essential to good health, there’s no escaping the need to get off the sofa and clean up our diet. In the mountainous centre of Europe, Austria aims to be the healthy beating heart of the world. A surplus of mountain resort hotels has prompted their conversion into great-value year-round wellness destinations and every health trend is catered for here. For quick weight loss, tackling sugar addiction and rebalancing gut flora there’s the famous Original Mayr clinic. For a full-body health check and an excellent alternative as well as mainstream doctors, try ParkHotel Igls. Authentic Ayurvedic treatments are the speciality at the little Sonnhof Hotel in the Tyrol. For state-of-the-art treatments from fat-freezing to DNA diagnostics, visit the newly opened Nescens spa at Interlaken’s grand Victoria Jungfrau hotel in neighbouring Switzerland. And don’t forget the health benefits of walking in the mountains, breathing the pure, fresh, health-giving air.

Who’s going: Absolutely everyone.

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Undertaking a whole-body health analysis while on holiday

Why: These trips team a regular holiday – enjoying a lovely setting, good restaurant and plenty of activities – with a detailed analysis of the state of one’s health and the chance to start corrective treatments immediately, on-site. Rapid development of high-tech blood and DNA diagnostic techniques and the rise of medi-spas linked with state-of-the-art clinics have made it feasible to identify what diseases one might be prone to, as well as any hormonal and mineral imbalances, fatty-acids status, and much more. “People are so much more open about disclosing medical info than they were even a year or so ago,” reports Frances Geoghegan, owner of Healing Holidays and go-to health-trip fixer for many of Europe’s rich and famous. Switzerland’s ultra-luxe Clinique La Prairie in Montreaux and the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, where the Swiss Olympic ski teams tune up, and the much less-expensive new BodyScience programme at the BodyHoliday resort in St Lucia, Carribean, in the which arranges pre-stay blood-spot tests for analysis, exemplify the trend.

Who goes: People with a time-is-money focus who enjoy on-the-spot access to doctors across a wide range of disciplines.

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Sleeping out under the stars

Why: As we face unprecedented stress and 24/7 digital connection, the pressure of our lives is creating a new desire for complete time out, close to the restorative forces of nature. “The new luxury is sleeping in a glass igloo, wrapped in reindeer skins, with the Northern Lights sparkling above,” says Dr Franz Linser of Linser Hospitality. He’s referring to the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Finland, but that’s not the only place one can fall asleep with the magnificence of the night sky all around. In Africa, Loisaba Camp in Kenya has thrilling new skybeds where one sleeps on a four-poster bed cantilevered over a river or on a rocky outcrop. In Malawi, Nkwichi Lodge will set up a bed on a little rock island just off the shore of Lake Malawi with just a sheet, blanket and mosquito net between a guest and the stars. In Egypt, a day’s drive from Cairo, the Berber-run Adrere Amellal desert resort in the Siwa oasis has no electricity, which makes sleeping on a rooftop bed ultra-intense. And at Amangiri, in the billion-year-old canyons of Utah, guests can take a moonlit dip in their private pool, then sleep out on their suite roof.

Who’s going: Anyone who needs reminding that we exist in a miraculous universe.

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Healthy rather than hedonistic city breaks

Why: The trend at spas is for longer stays and transformative retreats, so no one wants to undo the results during a weekend away. Eyes have been opened to what can be accomplished with just a few days of healthy meals and exercise. And with hotels and city authorities improving health and fitness options, one can come back a kilogram or two lighter, refreshed and ready again for the fray, instead of sleep-deprived and podgier from pointless indulgence. In Dubai, where the RTA is planning 900km of cycle tracks, the Armani Hotel’s general manager Mark Kirby says his lifestyle concierges increasingly see guests return delighted from tackling the new 8km Nad Al Sheba or 84km Al Qudra cycling path, where solar-powered lighting and sand bikes to hire make nighttime and off-track cycling fun novelties for tourists. In the United States, Miami Beach’s new Tierra Santa Healing House, home to digestive-health pioneer Dr Matthew Cooper, aka Dr Enzyme, adds to the allure of the adjoining Faena Hotel. And Los Angeles, once undoable without a car, is transforming into an eco city. Bikes&Hikes facilitates exploration of hundreds of kilometres of trails and there’s a wave of vegan or vegetarian restaurants and all-organic beauty boutiques opening by the month.

Who’s going: The fast and fabulous, wealthy and health-conscious.

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Using ancient philosophies to tackle modern problems

Why: Maybe we’re feeling lost or depressed. Maybe we pride ourselves on seeming calm, capable and super-confident but underneath feel full of self-doubt, anger or frustration. Maybe we irrationally lose our temper or are constantly arguing with a particular child or relative. Top spas have long recognised a need to address mental as well as physical fitness, partly because massage can release all sorts of unexpected emotions. Now some are adding counsellors to their therapy staff, and are increasingly providing a safe space to get a calm, dispassionate take on niggling issues through guided meditation or spiritual counselling sessions. At Kamalaya, in Thailand, “mentoring” sessions with former monk Rajesh have been so popular many now check in specifically to consult him about business plans or family issues. In northern India, Vana, the Ayurvedic resort opened by Veer Singh, the idealistic young heir to India’s biggest pharmeceutical fortune, offers meditation and spiritual counselling as well as lengthy, detailed questioning inherent to Ayurvedic diagnosis.

Who’s going: Even former sceptics who once dismissed such things as hippie nonsense.

Published: October 19, 2016 04:00 AM

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