Pulse December 2017 - Page 29

exponentially responsible for our health and the way we age. In other words, the way you age is very much up to you. Some of my favorite studies on aging are coming out of the exciting work of Dan Buettner and his Blue Zone research. He has looked closely at the areas around the world with the highest populations of centenarians and derived the nine core lifestyle characteristics all these cultures and people share. Beside healthy plant- based diets and lots of physical activity, one of the very top and essential lifestyle behaviors they all engage in is relaxation. These cultures have lifestyles that promote a calm and peaceful pace of living. Relaxation time is a cultural norm that is highly valued and widely practiced. Many people in Western cultures don’t even know how to relax. They think watching TV is relaxing, but television viewing stimulates our brains and is often filled with stressful content and images. It seems no one in our modern culture knows how to just do nothing. For our health and longevity, we need to learn to stop, breath and be. Someone should create an industry focused on creating a calm environment that guides people in the art and practice of relaxation. Oh wait, they did. It is the spa industry! Spas teach and provide a sacred space for the longevity lifestyle practice of relax- ation. Spas are uniquely positioned and qualified to reduce stress, induce relax- ation and, thus, enhance longevity. Spas are an essential part of the lifestyle medicine movement. What spas can do The task at hand for the spa community is twofold: teach people what stress is on a physiological level and guide people in the art and lifestyle practice of relaxation. According to the 2016 ISPA Consumer Snapshot Study, the number one reason millennials cite for visiting spas is stress reduction. Spas are in the business of stress reduction and promoting relaxation, so the perfect opportunity exists to rebrand the benefits of many spa services as lifestyle medicine and a key practice in a longevity lifestyle. It is essential for spa staff to have a strong working knowledge of both stress physiology and relaxation physiology so they can not only articulate it to clients, but also educate and inspire spa clients on how to maximize their visit. Every massage should include an educational component about how to engage your mind, not only your body, in attaining a deep state of physiological relaxation. It should be standard practice to guide every client in how to maximize the health benefits of their services by paying attention to their inner dialog and directing it to enhance a calm mind/body state. The spa industry has had many renais- sances, and an exciting one is upon us again. The science of healthy aging and longevity is clear. Managing and decreasing stress consistently and effec- tively will improve multiple markers for health, and is directly correlated to greater life expectancies. Spas offer essential lifestyle medicine. The spa industry should capitalize on the profound added value their services offer clients’ health. Sixty percent of every doctor’s office visit has a stress-related component associated with it, most of which go unaddressed by physicians. It is the spa environment, culture and ethos that is ideally positioned in our modern world to create this haven of relaxation. Certainly, we don’t have a corner on the market, but we do have a large share of the pie. We need to feel confident in our ability as an industry to recognize the deeper value of our services and we need to help our clients recognize it, too. n December 2017 ■ PULSE 27