Wellness dictionary

Little ABC for your spa-break questions ...

In their treatment discriptions, wellness hotels often use technical terms, which are hard to understand for potential guests. We have therefore collected and defined the most relevant terms in our small wellness ABC. A tip: Our wellness dictionary also supports word requests. You don't need to know the exact wording.


Wellness: Be well and enjoy!

Wellness is, in its basic understanding, a holistic lifestyle that encompasses body, mind, soul and environment. Wellness as a lifestyle is based on the four pillars of nutrition, exercise, social contacts and relaxation. The pillars are mutually dependent on each other in the pursuit of personal excellence. Those who "live" wellness increase their quality of life in a pleasurable way. This includes the individual build-up and development of a basic fitness level, the ability to actively relax and process stress, knowledge about balanced nutrition and an increase in the joy of life in general.

We at Wellness Hotels & Resorts describe wellness: Be well and enjoy!

Wellness: ... story of

The term wellness has its origins in the Anglo-American world. As described by Professor Kai-Torsten Illing in the 'Handbuch Freizeitsoziologie' (published by Springer VS 2015), the term 'Wellness' was already found in the Oxford Dictionary in 1654.  Here the use of the word "wealnease" was first documented in writing by the Scotsman Archibald Johnston Lord Wariston to describe the state of health of his daughter.

„I ... blessed God... for my daughter's wealnesse"

 (Oxford English Dictionary 1971b, p. 3738)

In this older context, wellness thus meant health and general well-being. Only later was wellness replaced by the term "health" for health in the Anglo-American language area. According to Professor Illing, the statement that the term wellness is a completely new concept of the 20th century is wrong. At best, one could say that this already very old term has been given a modified meaning by the US fitness industry with emphasis on wellbeing and fitness.

From the middle of the 20 . From the middle of the 20th century onwards, wellness spread throughout the world as a holistic concept of health. The American physician Halbert L. Dunn took up the word again at that time and used wellness for a concept in which the harmony of body, mind and soul is at the centre of a healthy life. According to him, each individual is responsible for this continuous balance of his personal excellence. - When asked by his colleagues why he would use 'wellness' and not the well-known term 'health care', his laconic answer was: "Because nobody listens to health care.

In the 1970s the word 'wellness' was taken up again. The sociologist Donald B. Ardell and the doctor John W. Travis established wellness as a new health model to counteract the rising costs of the US health care system. The aim was to motivate the population to make an independent contribution to health. The focus of the wellness movement was thus, as previously with Halbert Dunn, on self-initiated health promotion. 

Wellness: the definition

Dr. Donald Ardell, one of the pioneers of the wellness movement in the USA, defines wellness as lifestyle and philosophy: 

"Wellness is partly a lifestyle, partly an attitude to life and furthermore a philosophy of life. Wellness is a conscious commitment to personal excellence. Wellness is based on a clear sense of responsibility, especially for one's own health and, beyond that, for comprehensive quality of life in general. Wellness includes the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of being. A wellness lifestyle is a kind of art of living. If it is consciously developed and improved through new experiences, new knowledge and changing conditions, the prospects for a good and fulfilled life are dramatically enhanced. This is always connected with personal excellence in areas such as fitness, time and stress management and with appreciation of oneself as well as an appropriate constructive approach to oneself. Wellness requires a never-ending curiosity for plans, values and the meaning of life".

Like so many trends, the term wellness from America found its way to Europe. On the journey across the sea, however, the understanding of wellness initially changed. From a holistic approach in America it initially became synonymous with relaxation and well-being in Central Europe. Since 2000, the term wellness has also been understood in Europe as a holistic lifestyle concept based on the four pillars of nutrition, exercise, relaxation and social contacts.

Wellness: differences in meaning

Although the term wellness in its original meaning stands for "health" and "well-being", there are differences in the content of this term in Central European and English-speaking countries. In Central European countries, wellness is directly related to leisure and tourism facilities, for example wellness hotels, wellness departments, etc. Here it is about services related to health, prevention, well-being, relaxation and body optimisation. In this context, wellness is purely a self-paying service.

In English-speaking countries the term wellness is often used in connection with occupational health care. Many companies support their employees in the areas of health and prevention (also known as 'corporate health'). The associated institutions are called 'wellness centres' or 'health & wellness centres', for example. (Source: Prof. Kai Torsten Illing, Handbuch Freizeitsoziologie, published by Springer VS 2015).

Wellness is based on four pillars: What does it involve and how does it work?

1. nutrition:

A healthy, balanced diet is the basis for a good body feeling. It ensures a sufficient supply of vital nutrients and is the body's "fuel".

2. exercises:

Sport keeps body and mind fit. Regular exercise, appropriate effort and enjoyment and motivation in sport are the key to long-term fitness.

3. Social and emotional support:

Whether digital or analogue: people are social beings. Friendships and relationships therefore make people happy and provide emotional and social stability.

4. relaxation:

From meditation and regular walks to taking time out from everyday life: Relaxation breaks are of immense importance for physical and mental well-being.

"Wellness means making a lasting commitment - for personal excellence of body, mind and soul. This dramatically increases the prospects for a fulfilled and healthy life into old age" (Dr. John Travis)

Wellness in German-speaking Europe: From luxury to philosophy of life

At the beginning of the 1990s the term wellness came to Europe. Initially in the tourism sector, the Austrian hotel industry was the pioneer in this field. Why in tourism, then, is a legitimate question. The answer is simple: At that time, the health resort system in Central Europe was highly efficiently utilised and established as a curative health holiday fully financed by health insurance companies.

The American self-payer mentality for health care costs therefore had no economic breeding ground in the German-speaking health care system in Europe. The tourism sector, however, discovered a way of offering the self-payer a more multi-faceted (preventive) holiday with 'wellness in the hotel'. More comfort, more enjoyment and more relaxation, but getting up less early - and all that with your partner | your partner's partner. - Even today, wellness tourism is still a flourishing market, and that worldwide. Nowhere else is a holiday hotel | a holiday resort in the 4 + 5 star segment being built without the corresponding spa and wellness facilities.

In 1997, 17 German holiday hoteliers, who already understood wellness as "be well and enjoy", founded the cooperation of "Wellness-Hotels & Resorts" under the trademark of the 'Wellness Tree'. The foundation stone for a uniform understanding of 'wellness in the hotel' was thus laid. Among other things, this was ensured by a catalogue of criteria that defined the requirements for a wellness hotel and ensured a uniform understanding of wellness hotels. These quality criteria for wellness hotels are still recognised in the German hotel market today.

Where does one experience wellness?

According to Donald Ardell's definition wellness is - as described above - a holistic lifestyle. Therefore it is not only about the individual experience, but also about the integration of the wellness concept into everyday life. Wellness can thus be a walk through the forest, a fresh salad for lunch, a visit to church or a concert with friends - whereby making music yourself or with a group of friends can also be an important (social) component for the soul. Wellness is therefore lived, individual diversity.

Is there wellness in everything that says wellness?

Wellness has been a popular buzzword since the 90s and is added to many products as a - basically positively charged - term. Of course, adding 'wellness' always suggests that the product is good for your health and well-being. Therefore, there is a wide range of apparent wellness products: From wellness yoghurt and drinks, wellness socks, wellness (training) suits to 'wellness for the car'. This has nothing to do with the definition of wellness by Donald Ardell and Dr. John Travis, it is pure marketing. 

Why is wellness important?

Wellness as a concept of life has the goal of bringing body, mind and soul into harmony and is geared towards individual well-being. The special thing about it is that the way to achieve this is not prescribed, but there are many individual possibilities to develop your own 'wellness lifestyle'. From a range of offers from the different areas of the above-mentioned 4-pillar concept, each person can thus decide for himself what he wants to focus on. Wellness serves to maintain health and can therefore be classified as prevention. It is about preventing illnesses and maintaining a self-defined level of health satisfaction. This means that a person reaches and maintains a level of health with which he or she is permanently satisfied.  This process of constantly improving one's own well-being is wellness as a lifestyle.

Related topics: Mindfulness Healthysatisfaction Longevity Medical Wellness Definition mental wellness Ornish, Dr. Dean Spa Stress Management

Wellness-Hotels & Resorts | Michael Altewischer - Managing Partner

Michael Altewischer

Michael Altewischer managing partner of Wellness-Hotels & Resorts since 2001 in the headquarter in Duesseldorf. His key aspects are scheduling and run cutting of the wellness sector and business management of the Spa section

Wellness-Experte Dr. Matthias Menschel Allgemeinmediziner und Naturheilverfahren

Matthias Menschel

Dr. med. Matthias Menschel, born in 1965, is a general medical practitioner and naturopathic physician. Since 2000 he has been the head physician at Menschel's Vitalresort in Bad Sobernheim. Buchinger fasting and Felke therapy are the focus of his medical activities. Further treatment focuses are: