More Than Just a Lifestyle: The History of Wellness and Its Evolution

Conduct a Google search on the word “wellness,” and you will find millions of sources that discuss the practice of living a healthy lifestyle. While many of these articles tackle the various dimensions of wellness and its effect on our daily life, all these things point to only one thing: making healthy choices and being free from illness.

According to the Global Wellness Institute, wellness refers to the active pursuit of lifestyles, choices, and activities to achieve a state of holistic health. Today, many companies transform everyday life by providing unique approaches and services, such as meditation centers, fitness essentials, organic-rich goods, and CBD oil products that help manage sleep and chronic pain.

The term “wellness” may seem a modern concept, but its ancient roots are as old as mankind. So if you are planning to jump on the wellness bandwagon, it is best to start by learning about its beginnings. Here is a brief history of how the wellness lifestyle began in ancient times and how it evolved as a modern fitness phenomenon.

Ancient Wellness

Around 3000 to 1500 B.C., Ayurveda began as an oral tradition recorded in the sacred Hindu texts. It is a holistic system that aims to form harmony between the mind, body, and spirit. Hindus designed the Ayurveda regimens based on each individual’s constitution, involving social interaction, exercise, and nutritional and hygiene needs. Its main goal is to retain the balance of the body to eliminate any forms of diseases.

Meanwhile, China developed one of the world’s oldest systems of medicine, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Influenced by Buddhism and Taoism, TCM uses a holistic concept to attain wellbeing and good health by incorporating harmony in one’s lifestyle. The modern approaches that evolved from TCM include herbal medicine, tai chi, qi gong, and acupuncture.

Ancient Greek and Roman medicine also paved the way in promoting wellness in disease prevention. The Greek physician Hippocrates became the first physician to focus on treating diseases by arguing that acquiring a disease is a product of lifestyle, diet, and environmental factors. On the other hand, ancient Rome developed a public health system to prevent the spread of germs and maintain a healthier population.

19th-Century Medical Movements

The 19th century marked the beginning of medical practices, spiritual philosophies, and intellectual movements around Europe and the U.S. It was the time when the number of alternative healthcare methods increased, focusing on holistic approaches, self-healing, and preventive care, such as naturopathy, chiropractic, osteopathy, and homeopathy. The newly discovered medical practices during this era earned widespread acceptance, gaining plenty of interested learners.

By the 1650s, the term “wellness” was born with its definition, “state of being in good health and free from illness.” The earliest published reference dates back to 1654 in a diary entry by Sir Archibald Johnston.

Several years later, the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) established the world’s first wellness organization with the principle of developing the body, mind, and spirit. Meanwhile, John Harvey Kellogg of the Michigan Sanitorium promoted the practice of naturopathy that focuses on the body’s ability to heal through lifestyle and dietary changes, join manipulation, and herbal massage.

20th Century: The Wellness Campaign gets Serious

The first modern use of “wellness” began in the 1950s in a seminal work by physician Halbert L. Dunn titled High-Level Wellness. Although his work received little attention at the start, a network of U.S. physicians embraced Dunn’s ideas in the 1970s, including Dr. Bill Hettler, Don Ardell, Dr. John Travis, and other associates.

These individuals became the “fathers of the wellness movement,” who developed wellness assessment tools, established a comprehensive wellness model, and became active spokespersons of the new health concept. At the same time, these people founded the world’s first wellness center, which led to establishing the first university campus wellness center, National Wellness Conference, and National Wellness Institute.

From 1980 to the 2000s, wellness movements increased their momentum as the medical, corporate, and academic community gain a newfound interest. This new trend led to academic publications about wellness approaches, wellness associations, workplace wellness programs, and the rise of fitness and spa industries.

21st Century: The Modern Wellness Practices

Today, the global wellness movement and market reached a significant tipping point in promoting wellness concepts and offerings associated with diet, fitness, and healthy living. These wellness programs gained widespread popularity that transformed every industry from apparel and food to travel.

Even the government and healthcare organizations shift their focus towards wellness and prevention as the obesity crisis and chronic diseases became a huge concern in the medical world. Along with these efforts, global employers are adopting health promotion strategies, and self-help experts are gaining social media popularity.

Wellness has become a lifestyle value that transformed how we work, what we consume, and even our cultural and social norms. It has influenced every aspect of our lives that seeks to provide solutions to plenty of health problems that require proper addressing. Until then, it is important to recognize the right wellness approach to attain a clear pathway towards optimal living.