Health Spa Vacations: Something for Everyone
For many people the word "spa" conjures images of mud packs, pedicures,
facials and other cosmetic indulgences.
But today, many health spas are offering more: an approach to physical
health and personal well-being that visitors can take home when the vacation is
At a health spa, you can play a brisk game of tennis, but you'll also get
help in developing an ongoing fitness plan. A relaxing massage might be
accompanied by instruction in yoga, meditation, and other relaxation
And expect the restaurant at the health spa to offer nutritious,
well-balanced, and tasty meals that provide a model of how to eat well every
day. Spas have been growing at an astonishing rate. Since 2003, the
number of spa locations worldwide has shot up 39%, to 13,757, according to the
International Spa Association. Spa visits in the United States have been
increasing at the rate of about 9% a year.
And health spas have led this boom, growing from 3% of the market two years
ago to 7% today.
"They come here because we offer a serious medical lifestyle program," says
Connie Tyne, CEO of the Cooper Spa in Dallas, Texas. "We're not about
pampering. There is pampering for people who want it, but the focus is
on how we can help you so that when you leave here, you can live healthier.
You'll have the tools you need."
Spa Vacations: The Long and the Short
The ISA defines a spa as "an entity devoted to enhancing overall well-being
through a variety of professional services that encourage the renewal of mind,
body, and spirit."
According to the ISA, spas come in a variety of shapes and sizes:
- The club spa focuses on physical fitness, and helps visitors develop
the exercise habit.
- The day spa offers a quick get-away, with services provided on an a
la carte basis. More than half of spa visits are to day spas, according to the
- The destination spa is a full-immersion spa experience, usually
lasting about a week, that aims at permanently enhancing each visitor's life.
That can mean instruction in physical fitness and wellness, including how to
prepare healthful food.
- A mineral springs spa includes a source of mineral, thermal, or
seawater for use in hydrotherapy.
- A resort or hotel spa has become a favorite of business
travelers looking for an opportunity to dissolve work stress with a vigorous
workout or a relaxing massage.
- The cruise ship spa, as the name implies, takes place on a ship
devoted to providing an array of spa services. While the food served on a
cruise ship spa is nutritious, it is also famously abundant.
A health or medical spa usually includes some of these traditional elements,
but the primary focus is on helping people adopt a healthy lifestyle. At the
Cooper Spa, in Dallas, for example, the first day is devoted to medical tests,
including a treadmill stress test, that provide a comprehensive health profile
for each visitor.
"We found that so many people haven't been active since college," said Tyne.
"If you're 45 and your last experience was on the college basketball court, you
probably don't know what to do now that you're older and deconditioned. You
know you should do something -- but what?"