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Wellness vacations can signify status, but look beyond the price

Wellness retreats at hotels have experts to help vacationers with fitness, mindfulness and nutrition

Could wellness vacations be the latest status symbol?

Perhaps. More than 60% of travelers considered a balanced sense of well-being a status symbol of success, an international survey by Westin Hotels & Resorts found.

Some of the activities offered by resorts — ocean-front boot camp, yoga with celebrity trainers, exotic hikes — will have you working up a sweat, but the exertion is often buffered by deluxe accommodations and service.

Wellness retreats are often based at full-service hotels that partner with experts and customize services to suit their upscale clientele. Westin, for instance, has named personal trainer Chris Heuisler as its national running concierge. He advises the company on runners' specific needs as well as leads runs at hotel properties or events, where he shares race strategy and fitness tips.

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Westin's new Wellness Escapes are an ongoing series of retreats to inspire and teach participants about fitness, mindfulness, nutrition and more through activities, seminars and workshops. The company launched the series with a women's strength-training weekend and continues with three-day running workshops.

As hotels and tourism companies discover that frequent and occasional travelers alike want more than a change of scene, they're also rethinking the purpose and design of a hotel.

Earlier this year, Even, an InterContinental Hotels Group brand centered on wellness, debuted in Norwalk, Conn.

Its relatively inexpensive guest rooms ($160 to $190 a night) have built-in mini-gyms with cork flooring, a balance ball, resistance bands, a sit-down and a stand-up desk, ergonomic task chair and a yoga mat.

But, like any status symbol, these wellness vacations aren't inexpensive.

Westin's Mammoth Running Escape includes a running coach at the California resort for three days for $1,500; a seven-day metabolism reboot program with Mountain Trek in British Columbia is $4,500. The all-inclusive programs at VeraVia in Carlsbad start at $3,850 for the four-day express option.

Booking a wellness retreat is a highly personal, often research-intensive pursuit. Many resemble camp for grown-ups — all-inclusive experiences designed to enhance a skill such as skiing or yoga, attain a personal goal such as summiting a mountain peak or recover from exhausting lives with nature hikes, clean food and lots of professional advice.

Speak with the program guides to be sure your goals match theirs, or else you may learn how to eat vegan when you only want to kick caffeine.

Price isn't necessarily a measure of quality or a guarantee of good results. Look for programs led by well-known experts, partnerships with recognized institutions and follow-up components that can help you sustain new regimens. And if change is what you seek, not just relaxation, be prepared to work hard for it.


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