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Can Group Hiking Lead to a Longer, Better Life?

The hiking group was as varied as a bag of trail mix, ranging from an elderly man in his seventies to a woman in her early thirties. We had met at the shared breakfast table at Palazzo Fiuggi that morning over coffee and omelets with cured salmon before driving to the hills outside the town for a three-hour hike. When we arrived at the forest, we trailed our guides through the trees, past grazing horses and pale yellow wild orchids. We were encouraged to move at our own speed–if anyone got lost, they could radio the group via the walkie talkies that we all carried. As a fast paced New Yorker, I was certain I’d be charging ahead and leading the pack—but I found myself moving at the same pace as the other hikers, enjoying the friendly chatter.

Making human connections is one of the key elements of Palazzo Fiuggi’s new “hiking for longevity” program, modeled off the concept of Blue Zones: Considering research shows that social connection can increase our odds of survival by 50%, bonding is an essential component of Fiuggi’s program. The destination spa, which is located an hour from Rome, is on the forefront of wellness travel with a variety of medically-minded treatments including things like personalized IV sessions, genetic testing, and full body scans. The new six day hiking program–where guests do daily nature hikes and eat Mediterranean meals around a shared table to stimulate connection–takes a more holistic approach to achieving a longer and better quality of life.

Longevity, which has become one of the buzziest words in the wellness space, has also become a big business. The life-extension market is expected to reach $44.2 billion by 2030. There are books about it (Outlive by physician Peter Attia), podcasts discussing it (Lifespan by genetics professor Dr David Sinclair) and Ted Talks by experts such as Susan Pinker and Dan Buettener dedicated to it. Influential people such as Jeff Bezos are investing heavily in research and treatments, and cutting edge regenerative medicine–like breakthroughs in stem cell therapy–frequently makes headlines. The longevity movement, it seems, is moving faster than we can age.

An infrared sauna at RoseBar, which features biohacking and meditation

Six Senses

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Also at Six Senses in Ibiza is restaurant The Beach Caves

Six Senses

Hotels and wellness resorts are jumping on the trend too, some offering advanced medical treatments, such as IV therapy and genetic testing. If you’re a traveler looking to dip into a week of longevity treatments, the options are truly eternal. At Rosebar at Six Senses in Ibiza, on the edge of the Mediterranean, a Young Forever retreat, which features biohacking and meditation, was launched in collaboration with longevity expert and MD Mark Hyman. In addition, they offer stem cell and exosome therapy said to repair damaged cells. The personalized program at Lily of the Valley, a glitzy wellness property south of Saint Tropez, offers a rigorous program with a specialized aging evaluation that includes a skin diagnosis and recommended course of facial treatments. The Spain-based SHA Wellness Clinic, a pioneer in medical tourism, has a six-night, healthy-aging program that features advanced hormone treatments and telomeric length measurement designed to uncover abnormal expression of genes). At Chenot, a chalet-style wellness hotel in Switzerland, advanced RNA-based molecular testing (designed to uncover abnormal expression of genes), is offered as an add-on to the detox program. In Maui, the Four Seasons Resort at Maui Wailea launched a week-long longevity protocol with Next|Health founder Darshan Shah, where where IVs said to help with cell repair and regeneration are administered on arrival.

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SHA Wellness Clinic Mexico

Maureen M.Evans/SHA

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An infinity Pool at SHA Wellness Clinic

Maureen M.Evans/SHA

Not all longevity treatments have to include stem cells or IVs. For Chip Conley, co-founder of MEA, taking a less medical and more socio-emotional approach is arguably as effective. “If you can shift your mindset around aging from a negative to a positive, you can gain seven and a half years of additional life,” says Conley, a longtime hotelier and former Airbnb exec. With campuses in Baja and Santa Fe, the midlife wisdom school is centered around changing the narrative around aging, with workshops from speakers like Dan Buettener and Elizabeth Gilbert, encouraging people to cultivate purpose at any age. “How do we help people reframe their relationship with aging? And actually see the upside of it, as opposed to just the downside?” asks Conley, who has seen clients, ranging from millennials to baby boomers, transform their lives at different ages. With online programs and workshops available, enrolling with the MEA Institute can be more financially viable than a stint at a far-flung wellness retreat or spa.

When I first dipped into the hiking for longevity program, I was baffled as to why the simple act of hiking would supposedly make me live longer or age better. Especially considering all of the cutting-edge treatments readily available. Shouldn’t I be doing platelet-rich plasma injections? But when I asked one of my fellow hikers, who had done a similar trip in Malibu the previous year, why she chose to do this experience again, it finally sunk in.

After immersing herself in nature, sharing meals and making friends with fellow hikers, with whom she is still in contact today, she said “it just made me feel better for longer.” This is the point, after all.


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