The Wellness Valley, the first place in the world dedicated to wellness expertise, is a visionary project founded in Romagna in 2003. The aim of the project was twofold: to invest in people’s wellbeing and to create opportunities for economic growth. This is now a strategy adopted worldwide.
Never has health been more at the centre of our thoughts and of the global agenda than in 2020. Keeping well and adopting a healthy lifestyle have become priorities for everyone, no matter where they live or how old they are. We now have firsthand experience of the need to keep our minds and bodies healthy so that we can face up to the most difficult challenges. Technogym has been at the forefront of the health debate for more than 20 years because of its commitment to promoting a healthy lifestyle, based on three pillars: regular physical activity, a healthy diet and a positive mental attitude.
Our mission is to help create a more sustainable world by combatting inactivity, which has long been recognised as the fourth-biggest killer in the world and a contributory factor to the most common chronic illnesses. To combat the inactivity epidemic, in 2018, the World Health Organization published its first “Global Action Plan on Physical Activity”; as early as 15 years before this critical declaration, a project was launched in Romagna that seemed little more than a pipe dream but is now recognised the world over: the Wellness Valley, an initiative of the Wellness Foundation, a non-profit organisation with the mission of divulging the benefits of a wellness lifestyle.
Thanks to this visionary initiative, Romagna has established itself as the world’s leading area of expertise for wellbeing and quality of life, making use of local assets to create a system that goes way beyond merely promoting physical exercise.
Today, this initiative involves more than 250 public and private local stakeholders - individuals above all, but also businesses, institutions, communities, schools, universities and hospitality venues - that organise and promote programmes, projects and events to educate people on how a healthy lifestyle can prevent chronic illness.
The results are tangible and constantly growing. Here are some key figures: the number of people who cycle on a daily basis is three times higher than the Italian national average; the workforce is 11 percentage points higher; and the number of overweight people and the risk of disability as a result of chronic illness are both falling.
In 2014, Emilia-Romagna became the first region in Italy and one of the first in Europe to officially prescribe physical exercise as part of its healthcare system, and since 2015 it has held the annual Wellness Week. At the sixth staging this year, the series of events and initiatives saw vast numbers of people take part in over 300 activities, including: dawn and dusk bicycle rides by the sea, in the countryside and through ancient villages; indoor training sessions; expert-led healthy lifestyle workshops; and free sports for children.
Moreover, the InWellness project, which began in 2015, anticipated the current hybrid training trend - a combination of training in the gym, at home and at outdoors - bringing physical exercise into people’s lives in public parks, on beaches, in squares and in historical places. Against this background, 2020 saw the launch on Rimini's new seafront of the first Technogym Outdoor island, a global première of the public-space concept that offers a solution for completely safe open-air exercise for users of all ages and physical conditions. The benefits of the project are not just for people’s health; they also have a positive impact on the entire local area by attracting tourists and creating jobs.
By leveraging its natural assets, Romagna has been able to create and attract many successful wellness events that have helped to enrich the local tourism sector. In this sense, the Wellness Valley is also a cultural district, an evolution of the concept of an industrial district first coined by the economist Alfred Marshall at the end of the 1800s as a benefit generated by concentrating small and medium-sized businesses in a small space.
A shift in focus has resulted in a shift from the industrial district to the cultural district, based on investment in research, knowledge-sharing, a longterm vision and sustainable actions. The promotion of a culture of wellbeing and a lifestyle centred on people and their health and happiness are at the core of this genuine wellness ecosystem.
The success of the Wellness Valley has made it a global case study: at the 2016 World Economic Forum in Davos, the Wellness Valley was used in a study as an international benchmark for creating sustainable health systems. It is apparent that the Wellness Valley, as a social innovation project centred on people and their quality of life, is also a template for some of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, particularly those relating to health and wellbeing, and the creation of sustainable cities and communities and partnerships to help achieve these goals.
We can talk about sustainability because the benefits of the Wellness Lifestyle extend to the economy and to society as a whole, shifting the focus of healthcare systems from cure to prevention and helping to promote sustainable transport and thus the health of the environment as well as the people who live in it.
Let's move for a better world
In such a tough year, health has become the main priority for everyone. The lockdowns that have affected many countries across the world made many people inactive and provided a real test of physical and mental health. At Technogym, we have never stopped helping people to exercise more.
It has been a challenging year as our lifestyles have been disrupted and we have been forced to make a string of sacrifices that have affected our wellbeing. However, while certainty and familiarity have been upended, we have realised that continuing to exercise is vital for the health of our bodies and minds.
At Technogym, we have never stopped moving to get the world moving and this year we decided to take to a new level Let’s Move For A Better World, the social initiative we launched in 2014 to combat inactivity and childhood obesity.
A campaign that reflects our mission: to promote Wellness on a global scale and encourage healthy lifestyles the world over. Inspiring young people to exercise is essential if they are to adopt a healthy lifestyle. For some time now, the World Health Organization has warned of the need to stop the increase in childhood obesity, which is linked to the future rise in related illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
In 2016, the WHO set up a “Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity”, but the results so far are not encouraging: there are currently 640 million obese adults around the world, and it is estimated that around 50 million girls and 74 million boys aged 5-19 are obese.
Technogym’s actions, starting with the creation of the Wellness Foundation to promote the wellness lifestyle on a global scale, are among the initiatives aimed at tackling this crisis, and we interact with various stakeholders including schools, institutions, gyms and healthcare professionals. The biggest weapon against obesity is prevention, and that includes physical exercise.
The scientific community recommends 150 minutes of exercise per week, and exercise is such an important tool that doctors in several Italian regions can prescribe it as a therapy in itself, particularly for children at risk of becoming obese. In such a critical year, we decided that it was essential to help spread this message as widely as possible: on 16 May 2020, our Let’s Move For a Better World campaign went online in the form of the first Let’s Move for a Better World Day, a virtual global event that united a community of thousands of people in more than 100 countries for a day dedicated to exercise. This was an important moment for rediscovering a sense of collectivity in mutual motivation and training, albeit remotely. The event was hosted on Technogym’s social media channels and led by our master trainers, who offered a selection of online workouts, but there were also live training sessions organised by clubs the world over, seizing the opportunity to reconnect with their communities.
Our social campaign saw a second initiative in November during the height of the second wave of COVID-19. In order to help our community find motivation and fresh stimuli, we engaged clubs, sports stars and celebrities in a week dedicated to promoting and sharing in physical exercise, punctuated by many events.
Throughout Let’s Move Week (7-14 November), two teams of Technogym Ambassadors took part in a remote Bike Challenge on Technogym Bike, led by Virgin Active trainers. Captained by Vanity Fair Editorin- Chief Simone Marchetti and his GQ counterpart Giovanni Audiffredi, the two teams comprised film and theatre stars such as Elisabetta Canalis, Matilde Gioli, Martina Colombari, Nicoletta Romanoff, Lagerback, Sarah Felderbaum and Catrinel Marlon, and sports stars such as Olympic gold medal-winning cyclist Elia Viviani, tennis prodigy Jannik Sinner and racing driver Carlos Sainz.
The challenge was held to coincide with World Diabetes Day, the aim being for Technogym to donate a gym to a centre working on the cure and prevention of this disease. In addition to the Bike Challenge, over the course of Let's Move Week, there were fitness events, challenges and on- and offline activities accessible from home, outdoors or in the gym, ticking both boxes in terms of raising people’s awareness as to the importance of exercise and helping the fitness industry back to its feet after a several-month-long interruption by involving old members and attracting new users.