Millennial’s Impact on Health and Wellness
Millennials, born between 1980 and 2000, have redefined wellness and possess a clearer understanding of its connection to health. In a society rampant with obesity and an increasing rise in diabetes, high blood pressure, and other maladies, millennials eschew sedentary lifestyles for an active one. They want a holistic approach to wellness that emphasizes disease prevention rather than disease treatment. Kantar Health and Wellness Survey compare and contrast different definitions of health between generations. Millennials describe health as being “physically fit and happy” while prior generations defined health as “free from illness and physically fit.” Skeptical of a medical system that stresses “sick care” rather than “healthcare,” millennials have turned to nontraditional resources—Internet health forums, and blogs. They are avoiding traditional health care for a holistic approach that combines diet, exercise, and the prevention of stress, anxiety, and depression.
A well-informed group, searching for happiness, millennials prefer personalized fitness programs that meet their unique set of values. Fitness revolves around fun group workouts, customized for their lifestyle. Although baby boomers led the way in fitness with disco-inspired aerobics, cardio-intense workouts, and running, millennials are taking another approach combining mental and physical health to achieve well-being. Unlike older generations, they want flexible gym membership and the ability to workout at home and on the road. Understanding diverging set of values warrants a closer look at three distinct generations.
Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers
Socio-economic and political environments shape generation’s ideologies, behaviors, and lifestyle preferences. Generation X (1965-1980) and millennials (1980-2000), grew up in times of the Internet, globalization, technological advances, and recessionary economies which altered expectations for marriage, childbearing, and work.
Marriage and Childbearing
Dubbed the flower child generation, baby boomers lived the American Dream—marriage, two and a half kids, house, and a career—the whole shebang. Unlike millennials who use online dating, baby boomers met their spouses through friends or social gatherings. Dating apps have become popular with millennials as the variety of apps reveals—Tinder, Align, Clover, SWEAT, Happn, Bumble, Wldyfire, OKCUPID, Coffee Meets Bagel, MATCH, GRINDR, ZOOSK, and HINGE. As online dating increases, marriage is on the decline among Gen X and millennials. Many are postponing marriage and having, or not having, children at later ages.
In the workforce, baby boomers established workaholism, putting work before all else. Unlike older generations, Gen X focused on work-life balance, possibly a response to their workaholic parents. In the workplace, millennials strive for flexibility rather than higher salaries. They have redefined the workplace, shunning inflexible schedules and cramped cubicles for telecommuting and open work spaces conducive to teamwork.
Millennials want purposeful careers that offer work-life balance. They are demanding more vacation time, casual work attire, and are driving Internet start-ups. Essentially they are taking control of their financial security.
Another fundamental difference in generations is technology. Unlike baby boomers, Gen X and millennials have had access to the Internet, computers, smartphones, tablets and other technology since childhood. Baby boomers use technology as productivity tools whereas technology controls millennial’s lives. They thrive on innovation and the ability to connect every aspect of their lives through smart gadgets and the Internet.
However, extensive use of technology has diminished millennials’ social skills, resulting in greater anxiety and depression. Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D., argues millennials have a higher rate of depression, loneliness, and panic attacks than previous generations. She contends the pressure of adulthood – keeping a job, getting married, and buying a home is not as easy for this group given the higher costs of living. Imagine reaching adulthood and graduating from college with student loan debt, during a recessionary economy and collapsing housing market, and having to postpone symbols of adulthood. Many still live at home while trying to find a career path. No wonder millennials are redefining health and wellness to cope with their unique set of stressors.
Technology and Wellness
Although millennials are stigmatized as a narcissistic, entitled, overconfident and lazy generation, they are in-tune with their health. Wellness is an active pursuit for this health conscious bunch. Not only are they exercising, but eating wiser and smoking less than the older generation. Millennials desire a personalized approach to fitness and health. Their preference for fun, shorter, full-body workouts with high-intensity interval workouts in a group setting has led to alternative workouts such as SoulCycle, CrossFit, and Zumba.
Healthy Food Choices
While baby boomers counted calories, millennials are counting nutrient-density, high quality, fresh foods, avoiding processed, artificial ingredients. Millennials want healthy food at reasonable prices, not super-sized, smorgasbord sales tactics of the 1990s and early 2000s. Consequently, food chains like Chipotle, Wholefoods, and Panera Breads are catering to their need for sustainability, healthy options by offering foods free of antibiotics and artificial ingredients. Millennials are willing to pay a premium for health attributes and organic foods.
Popular Fitness Apps 2017
The digital babies have had access to the Internet and technology since the crib, and are using their tech savvy to redefine fitness. With innovative fitness apps, millennials can personalize workouts, track and store fitness data in reaching their goals. With access to apps and the Internet, millennials make informed buying decisions through peer reviews, price comparisons, and product information.
The iTunes App Store and Google Play provide countless free fitness apps and some at a small cost. You can download Yoga, weight training, spinning, running, and marathon training apps into a digital platform of choice. Below are a few of the popular apps in 2017.
Nike+ Training Club App
Nike+ Training Club App is a digital Personal Trainer that allows one to workout anytime and anyplace with customized strength, endurance, mobility, and yoga workouts that can track and store fitness history.
Charity Miles App
Charity Miles not only helps a person reach fitness goals but also helps earn money for charity. Every mile run or biked is sponsored by corporate donors. You simply choose your favorite charity from a given list, strap on your workout gear and go.
MyFitnessPal is a free web-based exercise and fitness social media application, that calculate daily food and beverage consumption, tracks, analyzes, and recommends nutrients, calories, and vitamins lacking in one’s diet.
Yoga Studio App
Yoga Studio provides sixty five programmed classes for every level (beginner, intermediate, or advanced), with durations of fifteen, thirty, or sixty minutes. It focuses on strength, flexibility, relaxation, balance, or a combination. Detailed teacher commentary and advice is provided throughout each class to help perfect each pose.
Strava Fitness App
Strava is a mobile app used to track fitness activity such as cycling, running, walking, hiking, swimming, skiing, CrossFit, surfing, gym activities and more via GPS. Strava’s slogan is “The Social Network for Athletes.”
Pear Personal Growth App
Pear Personal Growth app boasts over 500 workouts and helps with many fitness goals. The program evolves as your fitness improves, and recommends workouts based on your fitness level and goals. When you select a goal, you are presented with several workouts for running, biking or the gym.
Physically Fit But Are Millennials Happy?
This tech savvy generation with a desire to be free, healthy, and happy has bucked tradition, by deferring marriage and children. They have discarded inflexible, unfulfilling careers for a more purposeful life. Millenials, saddled with massive student loan debt and falling wages are driving an entrepreneurial path of self-fulfillment and happiness. Striving for a purposeful life of health and wellness are millennials happier than the previous generation? Emily Esfahani Smith, author of The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters believes, in the long term, a meaningful, challenging life, and making a difference will lead to greater happiness.
Esfahani Smith, Emily (2017). The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters. Crown Publishing Company, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. crownpublishing.com
Kanter Health and Wellness Survey. Retrieved from http://www.kantarhealth.com/docs/reports/health-activators—key-influencers—edge-of-insight.pdf
Twenge, Jean M. (2014). Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive Entitled—and More Miserable Than Ever Before, 2nd edition. Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. New York.