The wellness industry is becoming increasingly popular, and thanks to the global pandemic it has never been more needed. While the wellness industry offers unlimited potential to bring benefits to consumers and undoubtedly does promote health, many people feel it is not inclusive enough.
According to Allegra's Project Fitness 2018 report, the UK fitness industry is worth £5.1bn alone with an annual growth of 7.1%; however, if there is a lack of representation in the industry, then is it benefiting anyone? If a yoga class makes people feel intimidated and conscious about how they look, then is it serving its purpose? If a particular minority group feels that they're underrepresented and don't feel accepted, then is this promoting wellness? If a spin class is full of flashing lights, is it welcoming to those who have an issue with lighting and contrasting colors? If a gym requires you to walk up a long narrow staircase and can't be accessed by disabled people, then how can they treat and prevent long-term conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease, which they are already at an increased risk of developing? Equally, are there enough gym clothes and accessories out there for people with disabilities such as these above the knee leggings?
Did you know that evidence has shown that mindful movement such as tai chi and yoga can improve cognitive and attention skills in healthy adults and in those with ADHD? There is also evidence that these practices can lower risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome, decrease stress, reduce inflammatory markers, lower blood pressure, and decrease pain. Regular practice of physical exercise has long been associated with health benefits including better sleep, reduced stress and anxiety, improved cognitive function, weight loss and healthy weight maintenance, and reduced risk for a wide range of illnesses, including arthritis, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and eight types of cancer, including breast and colon cancer, so why is the industry not more accessible to everyone?
Luckily, there are some organizations breaking the mold, such as Empower You, a pilot program which aims to break down barriers for people with disabilities, make exercise more fun, and is helping to get more disabled people become physically active. There is also a specialized gym called UFIT, which helps people with neurological, developmental, or physical challenges stay fit, and it is going from strength to strength. There are also a number of influencers out there who are focussed on diversity and inclusion and bringing a body-positive approach to yoga, for example, encouraging students to hone in on how they feel as opposed to how they look.
With new gyms opening up all over the country, and online classes becoming the norm, there is an opportunity to start including these millions of people who would not only benefit from the industry but are desperate to be part of it.