5 July 2021, by Cornelia Tautenhahn

“Hollywell”, personalised diets and breathing parties: The global wellness trends 2021 - Part 1

Smart TV brands will become players in the health market, we eat and breathe for our immune systems and architecture creates rooms for wellness: these are the GWI wellness trends for 2021. 

Wellness finds its way to Hollywood © Shutterstock

Estimated at some $4.5b annual sales, the wellness industry boasts a host of disciplines and trends. The study of the Global Wellness Institute on the 2021 trends 2021 reveals some paradigm shifts caused by the COVID pandemic.  


Trend 1: The entertainment industry bets on wellness

Will Hollywood become “Hollywell”? Almost looks like it because wellness has become an ever more important component of the global entertainment industry. As early as the 50s the Jack LaLanne Show already televised workouts right into American living rooms, the 80s saw Jane Fonda on video cassettes. Today, wellness plays a prominent part with streaming service providers. 2020 started with the “The Goop Lab” on Netflix, for example, where Gwyneth Paltrow shared different wellness experience with her viewers every week: Trips to Jamaica to try out psychedelics or to meet clairvoyants or energy healers. Admittedly, these formats are rather remote from most people’s everyday lives.  

Fitness on Smart-TV

As the big players joined the fray the number of more concrete wellness offers likewise increased. Let’s take “Samsung Health” providing people with 5,000 hours of free fitness and meditation courses (live and on-demand) at home. Smart-TV brands increasingly install portals for people to “do something” rather than “just watch”. With wearables these results can be personalised: The right move and the right stress reduction at the right time.


“Over a billion people worldwide already have smart TVs—and if they keep serving up free fitness/wellness classes, that’s reach.”

Beth McGroarty, VP, Research & Forecasting, GWS/GWI

Fitness at home with the Smart TV © Shutterstock

Wellness companies are increasingly becoming production companies. Just take the two major meditation Apps, Calm and Headspace, that now transfer their content to TV. A few years ago it would have been hard to imagine a meditation App getting a TV series on HBO or Netflix.


The future of wellness on TV is becoming more social: Amazon and Netflix already offer interactive "watch parties". And the future will become more personalised: The seamless connection between wearables, wellness Apps and smart TVs puts users centre stage.


The music industry bets on wellness

Also playing a prominent role here is music, which is consumed by more and more people as a type of medical drug for reducing stress, help with sleeping, concentration or for working out. The corresponding channels are now offered by such major streaming providers as Spotify, Amazon or Apple.  Meditation Apps are growing into fully fledged “record labels” and artists are experimenting with healing music. The advances of AI and biometric technologies have produced "generative" music. The result is a sound environment that unfolds afresh time and again steering body and soul into the right direction regardless of whether you wish to calm down or wake up.  


Last but not least, music also plays an increasingly important role in fitness features. Star instructors are becoming DJs. When developing Apple Fitness+ Apple placed a lot of emphasis on music creating new playlists.  


Wellness as a business and PR tool for stars

And even movie, TV, music and sports celebrities are investing in the wellness market, establishing companies or supporting health initiatives. There is a long list of examples. 20 professional sportspeople (including NBA star Seth Curry and tennis superstar Serena Williams) helped raise $200m for the fitness start-up Tonal; J. Lo and the Indian actress Malaika Arora acquired shares in the Indian yoga chain Sarva while seasoned wellness investor Maria Sharapova recently invested in the bodywork equipment brand Therabody.

The dissemination of information about a healthy diet is one of the major tasks in 2021. © Shutterstock

Trend 2: Eating for your immune system

When we were hit by the virus in 2020 we became obsessed with our immune system. Concepts and products in the multi-disciplinary wellness sector were labelled as “boosting the immune system”. And these offers will see continued demand from consumers.  


Nothing but marketing?

This is why “immune boosting” superfoods, nutritional supplements and treatments are mushrooming. After the pandemic the hashtag #immunebooster was used 46% more frequently than before according to a study by the “University of Alberta”. The panic-stricken population accepted the new products well.  


But the concept of “immune boosting” is precisely the wrong way to create a healthy immune system long term.  

What counts is: Metabolic Health

Attention should increasingly centre on metabolic diseases. These include all kinds of dysfunctional control of lipids and blood sugar as well as chronic inflammation. These result in the metabolic syndrome: high blood sugar, excess fat around the waist, high triglycerides, hypertension and a poor HDL level. Metabolic dysfunctions lead to obesity (and the associated types of cancer), diabetes, coronary and many other diseases.


“The COVID-19 epidemic was superimposed on an epidemic of metabolic ill-health (intensely pronounced in the US but growing globally)—and to me, that’s the elephant in the room. If we talk at all about strengthening our immune systems, the #1 issue we must tackle is rampant metabolic ill-health.”

Dr. Frank Lipman, a leader in functional medicine


The role played by diet

The key here is to avoid processed food, sugar, refined cereals and unhealthy fats and instead eat plenty of vegetables, fruit, wholegrain cereals, healthy fats (such as Omega-3 fatty acids), high-quality proteins, nuts, seeds and pulses.


The dissemination of information about a healthy diet is one of the major tasks of policymakers, the health care system and the wellness industry in 2021. Many start-ups will provide affordable, high-nutrition meals for disadvantaged communities – such as L.A.-based ”Everytable”. This firm supplies healthy meals at low prices or for free to disadvantaged communities financed by higher prices paid in better-off communities.


Furthermore, there is more research into how specific types of intermittent fasting can trigger regeneration of the immune system. While intermittent fasting was mainly used for slimming in the past, it is now a factor for helping a healthy immune system.


The future: Personalised diets

Research shows that the same foodstuffs often have an extremely different impact on individuals’ microbiome and metabolism. This shows the urgent need for personalised diet recommendations based on blood, microbiome and genetic tests.  


An incredible 70% of our immune systems is located in our intestines. Researchers are trying to crack the microbiome code. AI and machine learning are hoped to help use the complex colon data for a personalised diet.


Decisive: exercise

There is no denying that regular exercise boosts the immune system – regardless of age and condition even if it’s only a 10-minute walk every day. Muscle contraction produces so-called myokines that fight infections and strengthen the natural killer cells of the immune system. Studies show that high-intensity training for more than 75 minutes can have a positive effect on the immune system.  This is why a mixture of low and high-intensity training units is most advantageous.  


The role of negative and positive stress

Chronic stress destroys the immune system. In contrast to this, voluntary “positive” stress experienced (hot/cold, fasting, breathing exercises, high-intensity, short training units) are proven to have a short-term, positive impact on the immune system. There is ongoing research whether these “hormonal” stress practices also produce a long-term impact on the immune system.


Prevention instead of fast fashion

Immune health should not be a “what’s next – fast-fashion trend” with fancy products. It is important to remember the basics of preventive medicine. Research will continue dealing with the complex influence of nutrition on the immune system, with innovative therapies and personalised diet models. A wellness industry focusing on immune science could save many lives.  

Trend 3: Spirituality in architecture

Studies shows how the built environment impacts our well-being: hormone production, inflammation, colon and respiratory health, stress levels, immunity against diseases and viruses, cognitive performance, social interaction and relationships, emotional well-being and so on. Our buildings drive our behaviour, affect our mood and impede or drive our ability to discover our own spirituality.


Numinous moments

Wellness architecture sets out to integrate numinous moments. These are the moments when we stop and think and we are overwhelmed with awe, bliss, beauty, serenity, love or gratitude. Today’s “always on” culture needs such moments that are embedded in architecture. This design is about meditation, mindfulness, breathing exercises, gratitude and other important wellness practices. 

Architecture influences our well-being and behaviour. © Shutterstock

New understanding of spirituality

There is a shift in spirituality – moving away from Sunday mass to something that both pious people and atheists integrate into their daily striving for self-realisation. Universal traits of spirituality include such things as a connection with things divine, knowing your own calling, being the best of you and using your abilities to the benefit of others as well as living in the here and now. Spiritual well-being rightly deserves to be considered in design and correspondingly designed spaces in our homes, at our workplaces and in our cityscapes.


Influence behaviours by architecture

Nudge architecture designs the environment in such a way that it can influence people’s behaviours but allows them to make their own choices nevertheless. For example a beautiful staircase can be positioned in the entrance area  while the lift is concealed in the back part of the building to promote exercise. In the same way pointers can be integrated in the environment such as meditation bays or earthing zones at the workplace to allow individuals to incorporate their spiritual practices into everyday life.  


Influence energy by architecture

While Nudge architecture can be conscious or subconscious, some old traditions such as “Vastu-Architecture” and “Feng Shui” work in other ways. These practices use technologies such as orientation, proportions, astrology, positioning of rooms and furnishing as well as  blessing ceremonies to influence the energy that goes hand in hand with events in life, health and relations.


A survey carried out among people who live in lucky “Maharishi Vastu”  homes found that 86% of them have associated their time spent in the home with spiritual growth. Roughly 80% associated living in these homes with the search for a greater meaning in life.  


More wellness in architecture

A silver lining on the horizon of 2020 was that we can no longer turn a blind eye to low-quality buildings. We need space that allows us to breathe and be mindful. Living in balance means incorporating spiritual moments into daily life, into work and into the community.


Rethinking what was taken for granted

We also need a rethink regarding places that seem to be natural in this way. Let’s take bathrooms with wash basins, toilets and a shower in the same room. If the bathroom becomes a “holy room” for bathing rituals and detox baths that relax and rejuvenate body and soul thereby offering us a stage for connecting with our higher self – then this room is no longer suitable for a toilet.


Our homes will be changed to incorporate sophisticated details that give them a spiritual dimension:  Wellness kitchens will be designed in such a way that the preparation of wholegrain food becomes a joyful and relaxed ritual. Bedrooms turn into places that reflect the “holiness of disconnecting” in preparation for dreams and re-awakening. Meditation and exercise bays can create space for these daily practices on minimum space.


Wellness communities instead of grey settlements

Settlements will change from monotonous, grey copy-paste blocks to wellness communities with a strong sense of location and identity that respect the natural environment and promote those living there.  


Serenbe near Atlanta is one such project. The model wellness community links people with nature and with one another. Here people live in a neighbourhood full of fresh food, fresh air and with a focus on well-being. Art for inspiration, agriculture for food and health for well-being are centre-stage.  


Breathing courses are on the rise. © Shutterstock

Trend 4: Breath turns into a powerful health tool

In earlier days my work on breathing used to be on the not quite so serious side of my wellness spectrum. This has changed over the past few years. Clinical studies at Harvard, Stanford or Johns Hopkins have proven what we have known for centuries: the way we breathe has profound effects on our mental and physical health and capabilities.  


Breathing for all performance levels

According to elite performance trainer Owen Monroy you don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to benefit from intermittent hypoxic training (generally known as oxygen training). Monroy heads product development at HyperMax Oxygen, a fitness device for end users that combines altitude simulation with oxygen admixture. The user wears a mask connected with an oxygen bottle and exercises at various altitudes and intensities. When they are ready for a refreshment, they can press a button and their environment is changed over to four times the regular oxygen level. Benefits include more energy, better circulation, improved nutritional supply and less inflammation. 

From breathing parties to breathing vacations

There is a growing number of options for breathing activities offered by the wellness industry. A case in point are the “Amplified Ecstatic Breath” courses by “Amplified Yoga”, one of the hippest live-music fitness courses in LA. The course revolving around breathing goes hand in hand with mood-changing lights, refreshments and a live DJ. And there is now even a festival revolving around breathing featuring over 50 of the best experts in the field.


This theme now also plays a role in hospitality. One example is Lanserhof in Germany and Austria, which has seen breathing coaching as part and parcel of a vacation wellness package for years now. And the new post-COVID programme includes therapeutic breathing exercises.


Digital breathing

Breathing exercise Apps and YouTube videos have been available for some time already. On the advance now are wearable devices that measure air quality as well as fitness trackers and other wearables that measure such data as breathing frequency, pulsoxymetry, heart rate variability and customary breathing patterns.  


Israeli start-up company Anicca is in the test phase of its Companion device (patent pending) that regulates wearer’s emotions by transferring the feel of breathing as a soothing vibration to the body.


COVID and its consequences

Since our fundamental ability to breathe and the safety of the air we breathe have gained further importance since the COVID-19 outbreak the world has been collectively focused on breathing. But even when the virus disappears breathing exercises and breathing science will continue to pick up speed and reach an ever wider audience thanks to the innovators in this field.  



Breath coaching as part of the holiday © Lanserhof Tegernsee © Maximilian Koenig

About the GWI:

The Global Wellness Institute (GWI) is a nonprofit organization with a mission to empower wellness worldwide by educating the public and private sectors about preventative health and wellness. GWI’s research, programs and initiatives have been instrumental in the growth of the USD $4.5 trillion wellness economy—and in uniting the health and wellness industries.