By Thierry Malleret, economist
By Thierry Malleret, economist



It is increasingly obvious that our obsession with well-being – and in particular, happiness – is making us unwell. On average, we never had it so good (in terms of life expectancy, personal safety, income per capita, etc.) and yet addiction, depression, anxiety and suicide rates are all up.

There is a scientific explanation: we produce too much dopamine – the “reward” neurotransmitter that leads us to want more instant gratification through alcohol, sugar or social media consumption – and not enough serotonin, the neurotransmitter for “contentment”, which dopamine drives down. On a more abstract level, we tend to confuse pleasure and happiness.

This bears a lesson for investors. In the coming years, consumption of antidotes to ever more rampant un-wellness will increase, favoring themes related to nature such as wellness/eco-resorts and the outdoor industry (now growing at double-digit rates). The desire to reconnect with nature, and more specifically to exercise outside, will grow even stronger as new evidence keeps piling up about the benefits of physical activity for mental well-being.

A new study conducted with mice shows that lifestyle choices such as physical exercise not only increase the number of neurons in the brain (the so-called neurogenesis phenomenon), but also improve neural communications. Compared to sedentary mice, those that exercise have neurons that are larger and dendrites that are longer (and more numerous). In short: brain cells produced by physical exercise are quantitatively and qualitatively different. Humans are not mice, but the likelihood that the positive neurological effects of exercise are similar is high.

3 thoughts on “Wellness Investors: The Future is Outdoor Exercise & Reconnecting People with Nature”

  1. Glad to see that there is increasing body of research that demonstrates many if the positive benefits of exercising in nature which i have been exposed to for decades studying Leisure Sciences & more recently Neuroscience….an excellent book on the subject is Your Brain on Nature by Eva Selhub & Alan Logan.

  2. Reconnecting with nature can both help to prevent and treat disease, concepts which are underrecognized in Western medicine. But the curve is bending in that direction, especially in the hospitality industry, and bending pretty rapidly. Because is effective, inexpensive, accessible, and most of all, feels good and is restorative.

    An easy way to connect with this idea is noting the difference between exercising outside, and inside. Opting outside is more effective, cheaper and more therapeutic than exercising inside: I show how here

    Like in culinary medicine, specific types, durations, and frequencies of specific natural surroundings will, I think, be offered by the most progressive groups, but even now, several upscale brands in Southern California are starting with guided nature walks by California naturalists. It’s a good start, and deserves more attention.

  3. Exercising in the fresh air, time for reflection and convening with amazing nature (which is is free to all) is so great for the mind, body and spirit and the benefits should never be under-estimated. If we are not careful machines can take over our lives in so many different ways and the price can be a very heavy one to pay in terms of joy, peace of mind, nurturing relationships, love and innocent, infectious fun. I am excitedly working on a holistic retreat project in Tuscany where we will be looking for creative and imaginative ways to fully capitalize on the beautiful surrounding nature.

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