Health Spa Guide


Time spent in a health spa can truly change your life, but only if what you book is in fact the experience you’re seeking. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when bombarded by choices and multitudes of information online, so we’re here to help break it down for you. After all, it’s important to know all the facts when it comes to making choices for you and your body.

If you’ve heard the term “health spa” in the past and felt a twinge of curiosity flicker deep down somewhere, you’ve come to the right place. This article—a guide rather—will help you fully understand what a health spa is (and how they differ from a “day spa”), the benefits you can expect from attending one, how to find the right one for you, and offer you a list of the best health spas in the world right now.

What is a Health Spa?

If you were to look in either the Merriam-Webster or Cambridge dictionary, you’d see definitions that date back to the 60’s, when the term first appeared. However, a lot has changed in the last 60+ years. Today, as the entire “wellness tourism” market explodes, and hundreds of niche variations surface, from yoga retreat to fasting retreat, an update of the term is needed.

A health spa is a multi-day destination retreat or resort that focuses on providing guests a complete and balanced rejuvenation of body and mind, often layering physical fitness activities (like hiking, yoga, and exercise), eating clean food, detoxification and stress reduction practices, spiritual inspiration, and even sleep support and educational seminars, on top of a traditional spa experience (steam room, sauna, jacuzzi, cold plunge, and massage/treatment rooms).

Health spas are typically located in an inspiring and remote setting to allow natural beauty and tranquility to aid in healing the whole being, are only attended by a small number of guests at a time, and usually have a well-rounded staff of caring, nurturing, professionals to assist guests in meeting their individual health goals.

What is a Day Spa?

Day spas are the most commonly confused with health spas. Day spas are just that: a place you go for the day to relax in spa amenities like a steam room, sauna, or jacuzzi, and/or receive spa treatments such as massages, facials, waxing, and nails. Generally speaking, you pay an entrance fee to access the facilities and then buy treatments a la carte. No fitness or nutrition aspects involved, and the service is over when you leave the building—overnight accommodations are typically not available nor included. Fantastic if you are looking for an outing with your friends or a little “me” time, not so great if you are looking for a major health reset or lasting lifestyle changes.

The History of Spas

The idea of a health spa is by no means new; rather, health practices such as detoxification, healing and deep relaxation have been around in some shape or form for almost as long as we homo sapiens have walked the earth.

It’s long been known that water is essential to our health and wellbeing. Many of the first settlements around the world were built near seas and rivers, and not just for agricultural reasons either. Water was believed to have healing properties and was considered to be a gift from the gods. Hindus would plunge themselves into the sacral Ganges River to heal their body and soul, while ancient Egyptians used the waters of the Nile for beauty procedures. In Buddhist Japan it was believed that bathing was a way to ward off disease and bring good fortune

And while most ancient cultures valued water in all its forms, there were a couple of them who recognized the added benefits of hot water. Specifically, natural hot springs. The ancient Greeks with their baths, and Japanese, with their onsens, were well-aware of the healing properties of hot springs heated by geothermal heat from the earth’s interior. Greek philosopher Hippocrates hypothesized that all human diseases begin with an imbalance of “bodily fluids” and that to restore balance, changes needed to be made to your habits and environment. He also suggested that bathing, massages, walking, and perspiration were crucial to restoring balance in your body. Hippocrates knew intuitively what so many of us are just discovering now; that hormone (“bodily fluid”) imbalance wreaks havoc on our health, that movement induces circulation and sweating, both of which detoxify the body naturally, and that human touch is not only a core need, but also helps move lactic acid and other fluids out of our muscles and through our detox organs (kidneys and liver).

The water in hot springs essentially acts like a multivitamin for your skin. Heated water can hold more dissolved solids than cold water (picture dumping table salt into a glass of cold water versus hot water), so the water is packed with good-for-you elements such as calcium, magnesium, silica, lithium, and radium. These elements found in the water of natural hot springs (in addition to the high temperature of the water) have been found to help with everything from soothing aching muscles to softening your skin, to clearing nasal congestion and improving circulation.
Even without natural hot spring water, and well before knowing the science behind it, cultures all over the world understood the importance of heating our bodies, especially in the colder flu season months to induce a “false fever” when they were more sedentary, inflamed, and susceptible to illness. Turkish Hammams, Russian Banyans, Finnish Saunas, and Native American Sweat Lodges have all been around for millenia, and an integral part of each culture’s ancient healing practices.

While many ancient cultures understood the value of hot water, it is the Romans who deserve the credit for developing what we now know as a health spa. Romans considered regular bathing to be part of their regimen for good health, so it wasn’t long before private and public spas were built all throughout Rome and their conquered lands. They were a place for socialization as well as healing. The word SPA comes from the Roman “sanus per aquam”, which means “health by water”. And these new thermal centers not only had areas for bathing but also gardens, libraries, shops, and medical facilities.

Unfortunately, spas took a decline during the Middle Ages with the fall of the Roman Empire, but they underwent a small resurgence during the Renaissance. This time, however, they were targeted more as treatment centers for specific medical conditions, not as places of relaxation or socialization, and were primarily used by the aristocracy, as only they could afford what was then a lavish luxury.

During the Industrial Revolution, as pollution rose in Europe and North America, spas began to see a rise once again. The need to leave the city for the clean air and waters of the mountains and seaside changed health spas, who began adding “combined treatments” to their offerings. These treatments often included things such as physical exercises, massages, herbal baths, time in nature, and specialized diets. The spas, while evolving, never lost their original purpose of restoring wellness and healing the body, mind, and soul.

By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, health spas had become a staple in the lives of the wealthy and elite. Hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues started popping up around spas, making the surrounding areas popular getaways for those who couldn’t afford the spa itself, and the culture strengthened. WWII took its toll, however. Between the post-war economic struggles and the rise of modern medicine, people no longer flocked to health spas like they once had.

And now, modern society is understanding that preventative care is vastly more potent than relying on prescription pills and palliative care, and is once more seeking alternative methods for living a long, healthy life. Health spas are taking center stage again, helping people take the time to focus on self-care and wellbeing; physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Benefits of a Health Spa

Spending time at a health spa allows you the opportunity to leave regular life behind and give undivided attention to your healing experience. Day spas may be able to do that for a couple hours, but oftentimes multiple weeks are needed to make genuine progress. This is probably the biggest benefit of a health spa; complete, immersive, accelerated healing. You can be fully present with the healing process. All with the support and guidance of trained professionals every step of the way (why you want to choose the health spas with the best staff).

Modern health spas focus on a blend of physical and psychological improvement. Physically, it’s expected you will move towards a more ideal body composition (read: lose weight) and re-engage muscles you once used. Mentally, reducing stress and achieving a more calm, less anxious mind. And emotionally, finding peace, even in the most chaotic of lives, as well as new found inspiration.

What To Look For In A Health Spa

Health spas (and all of the variations) are most definitely not one-size-fits-all, so before committing to one versus the other, it’s crucial to understand the differences to help you decide which is the best choice for you based on your individual needs.

Retreat vs Resort

The largest category difference is whether the facility is a Retreat or a Resort. A health or wellness retreat is usually fully programmed, all-inclusive, and hosts less than 50 people at a time. You should expect to check in and out on a certain day, follow a schedule of events, and have most everything taken care of for you, from each calorie consumed to which type of movement you should do each day. Once you arrive, you can turn off your mind and let the staff take care of you. A health or wellness resort, on the other hand, offers guests a health-promoting environment with a la cart options to personalize the experience, hosts more guests at once, and allows you to check in and out as you normally would at any hotel. You should expect the resort to offer a wide variety of healthy options, like pools, fitness centers, and spa facilities, but for you to self-direct your wellness journey. Due to their intimate nature, all-inclusive programming, and higher staff-to-guest ratios, retreats are typically more expensive than resorts. Retreats are best if what you need is to fully unplug, turn off your mind, and have a team of experts guide you. A resort is best if you seek a healthy holiday but are more budget conscious and have the internal motivation to ensure you take full advantage of the healthy options available with your stay.


The location of your health spa is integral to your success, and is very much a personal choice. Some retreats are located in the dry deserts, and might appeal to you during cold winter months, while some are located in more rugged wilderness, and might appeal to you if you’re craving to get far away from your stress/pain and reconnect with lush nature, trees, water, and fresh air. Look at both macro and micro location. Literally look at the retreat on google earth/maps to see if the region and immediate surroundings appeal to you. You may find that the health spa you are really excited about is actually located within a larger hotel, a busy development, or so far away from the nearest airport that travel to the spa is prohibitive.

Staff-to-Guest Ratio & Staff Credentials

Finally, look into the staff-to-guest ratio and staff credentials. Ensure, especially if you are going to a speciality retreat (like a yoga or meditation retreat), that each instructor is properly certified and there are only so many students to share attention between. This may be a once-in-a-lifetime investment you are making—you don’t want to entrust your health to unqualified people, nor yourself! If you are considering a hiking-based health spa, are all of the guides fully certified in wilderness first aid? How many guests are in each group? If you are considering a fasting retreat, is the lead practitioner a doctor or other highly-regarded medical professional? If you’re going to a large wellness resort, how easy will it be for you to get assistance? If you are going to a ceremonial retreat in South America for the first time, perhaps bring a best friend or trusted partner to ensure you have a built-in layer of psychological safety. If this information isn’t listed on the spa’s website, don’t hesitate to call and inquire.

Best Health Spas

Now that you know what a health spa is, the history of them, and what to look for when booking one, you may be eager to begin your own research and may not need to read on. However, if you’d rather us suggest a few of the top health spas to consider, by all means, please continue reading. We’ve broken the list into two, based on whether the spa is a Retreat or a Resort.

Disclaimer: We, Mountain Trek, have put ourselves on the list of best Retreat Spas, but are subjectively offering up this list of other experiences that our own guests have experienced and enjoyed as well as including those spas that we know are high quality by being in the industry ourselves. Our intent in writing this article is not to sell you on coming to Mountain Trek—although we would be honored to see you for a week (or two!)—but rather, to introduce you to the wonderful world of health spas, and the experience of investing in your physical, mental, and emotional health, for your own wellbeing and longevity, as well as those around you.

Best Health Spa Retreats

Woman hiker standing in front of mountains at a fitness retreat

Mountain Trek Wellness Retreat & Health Spa

Yes, this is us, and yes, we are biased, but for good reason. Mountain Trek was recently rated the Best Wellness Retreat in Canada (by both Travel + Leisure and Condé Nast), the #4 Destination Spa in the World (the term Destination Spa was created by the wellness tourism industry and is often interchangeable for Health Spa), and routinely sees a return guest rate of over 40%. Mountain Trek is a 30+ year-old hiking-based health retreat located in the lush forests of British Columbia, Canada. 16 guests at a time are cared for by over 40 staff members and follow a proven schedule featuring daily guided hikes, nutritionist-designed chef-prepared meals, mobility and restorative yoga, functional fitness classes, and ample time in the state-of-the-art spa. If you are looking to escape far from your typical routine, want to be expertly guided into lush nature, and seek a highly rewarding, highly effective “health reset”, Mountain Trek is for you. The seven day/seven night program costs $6,400 USD (2023 pricing), with gratuities and extra spa treatments optional add-ons.

The Ranch, Malibu

Located in beautiful Malibu, California, The Ranch Malibu is a relatively new player in the Health Spa world, but has been quick to make a splash, and is routinely rated one of the top Destination Spas in the world. Similar to Mountain Trek, you can expect to follow a trusted program that incorporates daily hikes, clean food (plant-based only at The Ranch and coming from their own 2+ acre certified organic garden), yoga, exercise, and a state-of-the-art spa experience (including a cryotherapy sauna). The Ranch Malibu features larger, more luxuriously appointed guest cottages, more flexible booking options (up to four weeks, and is offered year round. Weekly guest counts are around 20 and a 6-night stay at The Ranch, Malibu is $7,600 USD per person for a shared room or $8,900 USD for private accommodations. This is an all-inclusive price but note a 16% service charge is automatically added to cover gratuity and tax.

The Ashram

One of the original health spas in California (opened in 1974), The Ashram, located in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains in Los Angeles, California, has deep roots in spiritual healing, but also still focuses its offering around daily hikes, exercise classes, spa time and massages, and healthy plant-based food. Weekly guest counts are around 12, and guest rooms are often shared with another person. The all-inclusive 6-night program is $6,300 USD.

The Pearl Laguna

Take all of the above, and imagine it was run by two world renowned yogis and you’d be envisioning The Pearl, in Laguna Beach, California. Hosting a maximum of 14 guests each week, but routinely less, and offering daily hiking, clean food, and power yoga, The Pearl is the most intimate and spiritual of the experiences listed here. You should expect to let your physical movement, clean nutrition, and guided yoga sessions be a pathway to a calmer mind and improved emotional health. Located in a renovated and expanded estate in Laguna Beach, California, you can join an all-inclusive 6-night retreat for $6,200 USD.

Golden Door

Located in San Marcos, California, and with 600 acres, 25 miles of private trails, 7 state of the art gyms, 2 swimming pools, and a tennis court, the Golden Door takes Japanese-inspired luxury to a new level. The Golden Door tip toes the line between retreat and resort, as it blends elements of each. Booking is limited to specific programs with scheduled check-in and check-out dates, like a retreat, but guests, a max of 40 at each time, are free to make their own healthy choices while at the facility, like a resort, but are guided by a personal trainer, again, like a retreat. The Golden Door labels themselves a resort, but have placed them in the retreat list after much deliberation. Either way, if you are looking for no sacrifices, luxurious pampering with personalized guidance, Golden Door is for you, but only if you have the funds to afford it; a 7-night stay starts at $11,000 USD.


If the price tags are starting to make your head spin or you are just starting your wellness journey, then Skyterra may be the retreat for you. Located on the other side of the country, in North Carolina, Skyterrra hosts a maximum of 35 guests a week and offers a budget-friendly program that balances following a specific schedule while allowing personal choice, often offering up to four different options per time slot. Over 80 different fitness classes are offered in one week, to give you an idea of the variety of choice on this pre-set menu. One week programs start at $4,025 USD per week, and stays of three weeks or more are possible, earning you a discount on the weekly price.


Best Health Spa Resorts

Canyon Ranch

Easily the largest collection of facilities on this list, with locations in Tucson, Arizona, Lennox, Massachusetts, Woodside, California, and Las Vegas, Nevada, Canyon Ranch uses it size to offer a wide variety of experiences, from programmed multi-night “pathway” experiences to day passes at their Fitness & Day Spa locations. You can even live at two of the locations if you want. Canyon Ranch is becoming a brand dedicated to being “the world’s premier leader in wellness guidance”, and is opening up a new resort in Austin, Texas as well as members-only “clubs” (think Equinox) in Fort Worth, Texas, and Houston, Texas. The 7-night “Lifestyle Reset” pathway at their original resort in Tucson, Arizona, starts at $9,800 USD.

Rancho La Puerta

Perhaps the oldest on this list, with doors opening in 1940, Rancho La Puerta continues to lead the way for wellness resorts all over the world, routinely being rated one of the best. Over 4,000 acres include 86 casitas, 40 miles of hiking trails, 32 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, 11 gyms, 4 outdoor pools, central fitness and spa facility with ample steam rooms, saunas and treatment rooms, and an organic farm. The facility map is reminiscent of a theme park map, only all the rides are designed for burnt out adults. While Rancho La Puerta is one of the most tried and true resorts on this list, they do only offer a Saturday check-in and check-out, taking a nod from the retreat world. However, once booked, it is up to the guest to involve themselves in any one of the 50+ daily activities such as hiking, yoga, trail running, arts & crafts, dance, HIIT workouts, and inner journey classes. Scheduled transportation on Saturdays to and from San Diego Airport are also included. The 7-night package starts at $5,050 USD, making a week at Rancho La Puerta one of the more economical options on this list.


Truly a spa resort (and one owned by Hyatt), Miraval lets you book any check in and check out day (on a Hyatt webpage) for either of their three resorts, located in Arizona, Austin, and the Berkshires. Miraval is focused on helping guests “create a life in balance through mindfulness”, and works hard at offering environments that embody this mission. At almost every step of the way, intention is designed into the experience, from eating mindfully, to being invited to see, smell, and even feel their serene spas. Miraval may be the place for you if sweating sounds best done in a sauna. A 7-night stay at any of their three includes all meals, snacks, non-alcoholic beverages, a $175 USD nightly resort credit per person to use toward spa services, fee-based activities and private sessions with Miraval Specialists, and starts at $9,900 USD, or $9,600 if you register for a Hyatt credit card on the spot.

Red Mountain Resort

Carving out its niche in the market as an “Adventure Retreat”, Red Mountain Resort is one of the largest and most affordable on this list. Guests can either check in and out as they please, and are told upon booking this option that, “this resort style rate is room only and does NOT include meals, hiking or spa program activities”, or guests can book “Adventure Retreats” that include accommodations, daily guided hikes, bike rentals, three healthy meals daily, fitness classes, healthy life classes and events, personal discovery activities, and WiFi. Red Mountain recommends you download their app so you can review all activities and schedules during your stay, opposing most others on this list who recommend guests try to unplug from their devices as much as possible. A 7-night (minimum 3) “Essential Retreat”, where meals and activities are included, starts at a modest $3,000 USD. You can upgrade to the “Ultimate Essential Retreat” where you get a $150 resort credit every day of your stay, which, at this price—the lowest on both lists— seems worth it to customize your experiences with extra services that are otherwise included by the other spas.


One of the more traditional health spas, where an inspiring estate and location offer primarily spa time, but a long list of auxiliary healthy activities are readily available included or on offer to further enhance your stay. Cal-a-vie dubs itself, “A European-style Spa & Wellness Retreat”, but per our definition above, they really are more of a resort, as they offer varying accommodation levels (25 villas and 7 suites), a variety of self-guided health-focused experiences, a la cart add-ons, and even host weddings, where a 400-year-old chapel from Dijon, France steals the show. The European Package, their most popular, is a 7-night all-inclusive package with three meals per day, four massages, and a healthy dose of additional spa services, and starts at $11,500 (2023 rate).

Moving forward

Clearly, not all health spas are one and the same, and seemingly, as our stressors and needs evolve, they become more specialized. Investing in any of the health spas listed in this article will probably provide you great value. Which one you choose ultimately comes down to; whether you are looking for a more private retreat environment that eliminates the guesswork, or a resort environment with more options and permits you to self-guide; which location and surrounding environment is most attractive to you (desert or forest, mountains or ocean, dry or wet); and price.

If you are looking for an intimate retreat deep in lush nature that will give you the physical, mental, and emotional reset you are looking for, we invite you to learn more about our award-winning program located in the majestic forests of British Columbia, Canada. With only 16 guests at a time, our staff of 40+ are permitted the time to slow down and be authentic, genuine, and present—pulling, not pushing, you the experience. Routinely visited by the same guests year after year, our program focuses deeply on all aspects of your health, head-to-toe, inside and out, and over the course of a expertly-designed week (or two), transforms you into a better version of yourself; stronger, leaner, more full of life and energy, and more resilient than ever.

If Mountain Trek is not for you, we completely understand. That’s why we wrote this guide! We wish you the best of luck on your health journey. We are here to answer any questions you may have. Farewell.

To learn more about Mountain Trek, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at or reach out below:

Voted A Top 5 Health Retreat In The World


In this year’s Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards (2022), Mountain Trek scored 93.26 out of 100.00, earning the following distinctions:

  • #1 Health & Wellness Retreat in Canada
  • #3 Health & Wellness Retreat in North America
  • #4 International Spa in The World

While our lodge is certainly the most remote, and often hardest to get to, we earned this distinction because of our pride in prioritizing our guest needs and success, hiring the most caring staff, and nurturing our guests through an intensive life-changing retreat. These reasons, and likely hundreds of other smaller nuances (that we’ll have to talk about in another post), are what separate Mountain Trek from other programs, and keep both our guests, and staff coming back year after year.

Mountain Trek British Columbia, Canada Lodge at Dusk

Without our amazing guests—those who have chosen to stand up and fight for their health—we would have nothing. Our guests are what motivate our staff to be so caring in the first place. Their initiative to take the leap and invest in a health retreat, and one that is far from just a stroll in a beautiful park, is inspiring. We are routinely honored they choose to spend a week (or two) with us hiking the lush forests of British Columbia, challenging their conceptions around physical, emotional, and mental health, and putting the work in to make a lasting, transformational change in their life. Our guests come from all over the world with a vast variety of backgrounds, but once at the lodge, those differences quickly fade away. Nature sees no color, nor preference, nor one struggle greater than another. And together, just 16 guests at a time, our groups break down barriers, reach new heights, and form life-long bonds they never could have expected. To you, our guests, we thank you for voting in this year’s awards and sharing your experience at Mountain Trek with the Travel + Leisure community.

We also must thank our Staff, who are the most present, caring, and nurturing people in the entire world—it’s in their DNA to care about others and the greater good before themselves. As sure as their mountain bikes whizz, their climbing gear clinks, and their hiking poles clack, our staff beat to the drum of Mother Nature, and have learned how to tune in to her clues ever so deftly. This same attention spills over to our guests, where our staff are able to pick up on subtle hints and clues that are otherwise overlooked. This unique ability, and a work environment that rewards team members for acting on intuitions and going above and beyond to enhance a guest’s stay, is what makes the Mountain Trek program truly unique, and what keeps our guests coming back year after year. Team members also keep coming back season after season; our two most senior members have been helping guests redefine their body and mind for over 25 years! Kudos to Kirk and Katya on this honor!

With unparalleled guest results, amazingly nurturing staff, and a setting of natural beauty that is utterly inspiring, we are honored our Balanced Health Program earned the distinction of a top health retreat in not just Canada or North America, but the entire world! Thank you to Travel + Leisure, our wonderful alumni who voted in the award, and congrats to the other winners. We hope to see you all on the trail again sometime soon.

What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at or reach out below:

The Truth About Collagen Gummies


Collagen gummies are becoming extremely popular. But are they really the best solution to healthier hair and nails, pain-free joints, and better skin? In this article, we share the opinion of our award-winning team, consisting of feedback from our Registered Nutritionist, Naturopathic Doctor, Fitness Director, and Program Director. Our opinion on this matter comes from an overarching goal to see our body as a holistic system that thrives on balance. From this lens, we offer you insights you may not have considered, and a fundamental understanding that will afford you the ability to create your own opinions moving forward.

First, let’s clear one thing up right away: there is no debate as to the benefits of collagen. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, found in the bones, muscles, skin, and tendons. It forms a scaffold that provides strength and structure within the body. It is an essential component of connective tissue and plays a crucial role in holding the body’s cells together. It also gives strength and elasticity to the skin. In summary, collagen is very important.

Our Ability to Produce Collagen Decreases With Age

As we age, we produce less and less collagen. This causes our skin to become less elastic and wrinkle, and become thinner. This can happen as early as 25-30, and accelerates in women after menopause. This scary fact is why so many people are turning to supplements, and, lately, gummies.

Rome Was Not Built On Collagen Gummies

Collagen gummies, however, are a supplement, and therein lies a massive clue as to what our relationship with them should be. Supplements, by definition, are not primary sources or fundamental building blocks; they exist just to fill in the cracks. Unfortunately, gummies are marketed as a quick and easy way to restore your collagen levels, and, all too often, taking supplements like these causes us to overlook producing essential vitamins, minerals, and collagen naturally—which is always a much more effective and sustainable way.

Collagen gummies are crack filler, and there’s no way to build anything of significance with just mortar. We must continue to focus on the natural building blocks of our health if we are to live a long, and happy life. And if, and only IF, we cannot genuinely derive or produce enough collagen naturally from our lifestyle (nutrition, exercise, habits), then we can, and should look to supplementation for help.

So what should we be doing to naturally support our collagen levels? And when those efforts don’t quite cut it, are collagen gummies really the best way to increase our collagen levels?

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Our Bodies Naturally Create Collagen

Fortunately, our bodies are nothing short of extraordinary! We have the ability to create collagen by breaking down dietary protein into amino acids. If our diet contains a variety of whole food proteins at each meal, we can consume the necessary amount of protein to create ample collagen without needed supplementation. Fabulous sources of both plant + animal protein sources (to promote natural collagen production!) include:
  • Spirulina
  • Legumes
    Seeds: especially pumpkin + chia
  • Nuts: almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts
  • Bone Broth (ideally home made). Pro tip: use bone broth instead of oil to sauté vegetables, or instead of water when making quinoa or brown rice; both great, and sneaky ways, to add protein to your diet.
  • Organic, free-to-range eggs
  • Organic, pasture-raised meats
  • Wild fish

Healthy Lifestyle Factors Support Collagen Creation

However, it’s not just as easy as eating the above items and presto, your skin starts glowing and your nails never break. There are other lifestyle factors you need to focus on to help support your body to naturally up-regulate collagen:
  • Make sure you consume enough Vitamin C, zinc, and copper, which are cofactors required for collagen cross-linking. Eat your oysters, which are incredible sources of zinc and copper, and consume plenty of red peppers and citrus fruits, which are full of Vitamin C.
  • Do not smoke, and limit alcohol consumption. Both are toxic.
  • Limit exposure to pollutants. Also toxic.
  • Avoid deep-fried foods and processed meats (bacon, hot dogs), as they contain Advanced Glycation End Products (AGE’s), which can cause the stiffening of our collagen.
  • Wear your natural sunscreen! UV damage also increases AGE’s and collagen loss.
  • Eliminate added sugar. Sugar is collagen’s enemy! Glucose and Fructose (the two most common types of sugar) link amino acids in collagen and elastin and create harmful compounds called advanced glycation end products. These damage collagen and contribute to inflammation.
  • Eat regularly throughout the day, rather than all at once, and include some protein with every meal and/or snack. This  improves absorption.
  • Thoroughly chewing your food. This also helps absorption and reduces stomach acid, which might denature (damage) the proteins before becoming collagen.
  • Take a high quality, refrigerated probiotic, or add a fermented food (sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, plain greek yogurt) to your daily routine.

Supplement only when all else fails

If you have reached the point in your life where collagen production has diminished so significantly, or your lifestyle is not producing enough collagen no matter how hard you try, it may be time to look for a supplement. Collagen Gummies, however, are not the answer. Typically, these gummies are often just glorified adult candies, and immensely packed full of sugar, which as noted above, is collagen’s enemy! Better than gummies, is hydrolyzed collagen powder, which you can add to your morning smoothie (see our Energizing Morning Smoothie Recipe) or take directly with cold water. It will give you all of the benefits a collagen gummy, and more, without the need to consume an over-processed sugar cube.

In summary, and as is with most aspects of our health, focus on supporting healthy (collagen) levels naturally. Follow our tips for how to do so. If those efforts fall short, look for as clean of a supplement as possible, and remember, it’s only there to fill in the cracks, not build your temple entirely.

What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is an award-winning health retreat located in the lush forests of British Columbia, Canada. Our award-winning “health reset” program will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at or reach out below:

Stop coping with mental and emotional stress and start resourcing

Q: I’m noticing that while coping with the mental and emotional stress of Covid 19 over the last year, my habits of relaxing don’t seem to be working. What can I do?

A: We all have various activities and behaviors that help us cope with uncontrollable situations. It’s humanly natural to avoid adverse or uncomfortable circumstances, as they generate a survival response in our subconscious brain, nervous, and hormonal systems. The uneasiness or duress is often connected to active or passive trauma experiences from our childhood (this is why all stress is individual). When something in our world destabilizes us like a pandemic, war, an economic crash on a societal scale, job change, illness, or having to work from home with our kids, we can feel uncertain, groundless, and wary—this can initiate a state of anxiousness.

To avoid this dysregulating cascade, we have habituated various forms of pleasure, soothing, and numbing to create a false sense of happiness and stability. Our brain is wired to release “feel-good” hormones in response to these coping strategies, but the momentary happiness we receive from the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin doesn’t rectify the situation. Inevitably, wine and guacamole, Netflix, and online shopping don’t lower our stress, and eventually, these actions lose their momentary pleasure potency. What our mind, body, heart, and spirit really need in difficult times is resourcing.

If we can get over the hurdle of deservedness, and truly resource rather than soothe, we can find resilience, vitality, peacefulness, and joy even when immersed in adversity. Considering that our society aims at keeping us developmentally in the state of the myopic self-absorption of an early teen (who would prefer a chocolate bar topped with sea salt for immediate gratification to release the feel-good hormones over an action we need to schedule), we need to energy manage our will power’s decision making through our day to have the reserves to decide as an adult to invest in our well being.

Here are a few considerations to self resource rather than cope and soothe:

  • “Own your day” by bookending the 1st and last 5 minutes just for you (not work, kids, a news feed, or social media), perhaps to pause and notice body sensations, arising emotions and quality of thoughts, journal, meditate or stretch.
  • “Bookend your workday” start and finish at the same time (as much as possible), but work more efficiently with periods of undistracted focus followed by 5-10 minutes of getting up, moving, and changing your mental state. Eat a snack, stretch, breathe deeply, write down 3 things you are grateful for, or have a tea in your garden.
  • Consider replacing happy hour a couple of times a week with these research-proven activities that lower Cortisol and bathe our brain with serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin: pat a pet for 5 min; enjoy a creative pursuit and drop into the ‘flow state’ for 20 min; cuddle, tickle, wrestle or massage your child or grandchild or make love with your mate for 20 min; walk or hike in nature while mindfully noticing moment to moment what you are seeing, hearing, smelling, and feeling on your skin for 20 min; unite your mind and body with 20 min of yoga, Tai Chi or meditation practice.
  • Prioritize movement/exercise, healthy nutrition, deep sleep, detoxing, and choices that actually lower stress and minimize anxiety throughout the week in order to balance your hormones, maintain an active anabolic metabolism and keep energized.
  • Enrich your weekend with fun outdoor activities with others, or take up gardening, the most recently researched long-term happiness-inducing activity.

What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health program, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at or reach out below:

Hydrotherapy and it’s benefits

Hydrotherapy, or water therapy, has been used for a variety of health treatments for thousands of years. Even before the Egyptians, humans have been steaming, mineral spring soaking, and immersing in cold water to boost healing in the body and mind. Hydrotherapy has long been incorporated in naturopathic, Ayurvedic, and Taoist health practices—even our modern, allopathic medical system has been using it for pain reduction, muscle, and joint inflammation treatments, as well as surgery and nerve recovery.

Hot Water Immersion

Balneotherapy, or Hot Water Immersion, lowers our stress hormone cortisol, as well as ureic acid and lactic acid post-exercise. Mineral salts (either naturally occurring at hot springs, or Epsom salts in your tub at home) have the added benefits of supporting the release of unwanted chemistry from the skin while also soothing joints, back pain, arthritis, and fibromyalgia. Cautionary caveat: replace your electrolytes after soaking in hot mineral baths or springs, and get up from sitting carefully as lightheadedness is common.

Cold Water Immersion

Cold water immersion has a vast array of benefits, from raising metabolic rate by 350%, lowering Cortisol by 46%, raising noradrenaline by 530%, and raising dopamine by 250%. Pain and inflammation also decrease (as experienced in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia due to increased production of opioid endorphins in the body). Research has shown that cold showers or cold immersion create a “positive systemic stress activation”, through which the high density of cold receptors on the skin sends an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses to the brain. This positive transient activation ignites the sympathetic nervous system and HPA axis (Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal-Thyroid nervous and hormonal systems). This activation has immense stimulating effects on our immune system by promoting lymphatic drainage! Brief daily cold stress increases the production of T-Lymphocyte, also known as T-cells, a type of leukocyte (white blood cell), and Natural Killer cell, also known as NK cell, production and activation. Both are critical in our immune system. Research is proving the benefits of cold water immersion in innate tumor immunity and nonlymphoid cancer survival rates.

How about Warm Water Therapy you ask? Sorry, not much happens. Head-out-of-water immersions in 20 C / 68 F water will cause metabolic rate to go up marginally. However, throw a few ice cube trays into the tepid bath and drop the temp to 14 C / 58 F and your metabolism will quadruple. Water immersion has benefits, but the greatest health measures are when it’s hot enough to sweat or cold enough to want to shiver in order to affect blood flow and its healing constituents!

There is a growing trend for cold immersion thanks to Wim Hof from the Netherlands. Wim researched water immersion practices from a variety of cultures and married them to breathwork from Vedic and Taoist origins. He leads workshops around the world in taking practitioners beyond their fear-based imaginings to reap the health benefits of hyperoxygenation (what happens when you hyperventilate) and prolonged cold water immersion.

How To Try Hydrotherapy

You don’t have to swim under the polar ice cap like Wim, but consider experimenting with ending your morning shower in cold water, which is called contrast hydrotherapy. You may notice its antidepressive release of beta-endorphins as it awakens you. Do your best to surrender to the sensation of the water on your skin, and know that the vasoconstriction of millions of tiny muscles around the capillaries of your circulatory system are exercising as they pump the blood quickly from your skins surface to your abdominal organs, raising your metabolism and circulating your blood, while actually lowering your blood pressure and giving your heart muscle a break. You can end your shower back to warm or hot water if you wish. The point is to move from hot water to cold. What you do after this is your choice.

As with anything new, approach this new practice with curiosity and always ask why. Please also be cautious if you’ve had heart issues in the past, as cold immersion can cause transient arrhythmias in patients with heart problems.

What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health program, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at or reach out below:

Finding Balance with sugar, alcohol, and caffeine

Achieving balance is no small feat. Especially when it comes to elements of our life that involve rituals, friends, or cravings. Take a few of the most common ones; sugar, alcohol, and caffeine. We all battle these daily, and constantly. One month, we’re off of them completely, then the next we find ourselves overindulged to the point we feel toxic. This cycle can leave us feeling stuck, dependent, and out of control.

We need balance. We can’t be all work and no play; all stress and no fun. But we also can’t be all fun and play. That is when actions become habitual, obsessive, or addictive, and we become out of balance with our balancing acts. It’s worth asking ourselves once in a while whether our choices are serving us or we are in service to them?

Our philosophy at Mountain Trek is that nothing is evil—not Ben & Jerry’s, zinfandel, nor espresso—it’s all about the amount, frequency, and timings of our favorite indulgences. To be habit-free we must know “why” we want any dopamine-rewarding substance. This requires asking ourselves a few mindfulness-invoking questions. Typically we are chasing a need with these pleasures. It could be to relax and unwind, reward ourselves for working hard, filling a moment of boredom, masking an uncomfortable emotion, or often sharing something socially. None of these, or any reasons, are shame-worthy. Once we know why we want these choices, we can ask if they are truly bringing us balance and happiness beyond the moment? This question might require some deeper contemplation and reflection to notice and track what effect these substances have on our energy levels, moods, mental clarity, digestive system, sleep, and even self-esteem. Journaling is a wonderful aid in documenting insights and helps you get out of your own head. If we realize we might be “holding the tail of the tiger”, we can experiment.

If you feel that cutting these elements from your life is preventing you from enjoying time with friends, lowering your overall happiness levels, and feeling overly obsessed, then there may be another path. Fortunately in this world of choices, there are replacement options for many of our pleasures! There are chocolate bars with higher levels of cocoa and lower levels of sugar, and even sugar-free chocolate bars are getting more sophisticated and delicious with natural sugar-free sweeteners (try Xylitol from Birch Tree sap). There are de-alcoholized wines, and 0% microbrewery beers, and even quality alcohol-free spirit replacements to give us options for the social or ritual aspects of ‘happy hour’ fun. Micro roasters have been creating high-quality swiss water decaffeinated espresso beans for years, so we can still be in joy savoring the flavors, aromas, and rituals without some of the un-balancing effects.

The key is to play around and not get stuck in habits that we may think are meeting our needs but are actually tipping us out of balanced health. Be present, savor and enjoy!

What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health program, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at or reach out below:

Different Kinds of Meditation

We live in a world of choice; 50 shades of grey, 150 flavors of ice cream, 50 styles of yoga, and over 300 various mind/body practices of meditation. It’s oh so easy to get frozen in the decision-making process and then not choose anything! Below is a summary of the different kinds of meditation to help you find the technique that resonates with you, so you can exercise your mind to be more potent and free.

First, let’s back up and discuss the benefits of meditation, and specifically, the practice of mindfulness, which is one of the most researched topics in psychology and neuroscience these days. Unequivocally, as exercises, it shows positive results in both brain and mental/emotional health. Though we tend to think of meditation as only something to bring mental benefits like increased attention span, heightened concentration, improved focus capabilities, peace, and tranquility, all the various techniques also have a somatic, or body-centric, benefit by invoking the parasympathetic nervous system. The result is lowered stress hormone levels, relaxed muscles, oxygenated blood cells, and ultimately, a deeper mind-body connection.

Current researchers have been cataloging the various practices, and have synthesized them down to the 20 most common, which can then be subdivided into 3 primary themes; Focused Attention, Open Monitoring, and Ethical Enhancement. Though there are the various flavors imbued from the original religious or spiritual wellspring that these techniques are associated with—whether Christian, Sufi, Buddhist, Judaic, Taoist, or Hindu—they are all, at their core, techniques to train our mind to be in present moment awareness, a mental state called consciousness.

Focused Attention Meditation

Focused Attention Meditation (FA) uses a vast array of internal or external phenomena to concentrate the mind on. From the sensations of the breath rising and falling or passing the tip of the nostrils; to gazing at a candle flame; the sounds of singing bowls, word phrases, mantras or, chants; or the details of each foot landing in slow motion while mindfully walking, focusing is the focus. When we notice our attention drift to thoughts, feelings or, body sensations, all schools of this form of meditation encourage a non-judgemental “letting go” followed by a return to concentrating the awareness on the stimuli. Brain scans show increased neuron activity in the centers responsible for cognitive control, thought regulation, and sensory information processing. Try this 8-minute breathing meditation:

Open Monitoring Practices

Open Monitoring Practices (OM) do not use an object of focus. Instead, they center on moment-to-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, and body sensations also without judgment or preference. Again, with this practice, certain areas of the brain show improvements in action and thought regulation, cognitive control, and sensory information processing. These schools of meditation practice noticing and letting go of anything and everything to foster awareness of our thought tendencies, from a place of present moment witnessing without attachment.

Ethical Enhancement

Ethical Enhancement forms of meditation (EE) include contemplative, gratitude, and compassion centric exercises. They tend to focus thoughts and feelings towards higher states of acceptance and loving-kindness. The improvements noticed through neuroscience are related to areas in the brain associated with ’empathy’, ‘pain perception’ and, ‘body sensation processing’.

Whether you choose to start a meditation practice from any one of these channels, the results are beneficial for the mind, heart, and body. Besides becoming practiced in being focused, aware, or more compassionate for self and others, you’ll notice how your interpersonal presence increases, your ability to stay on task at work increases, and how anxious thoughts can be simply noticed and let go. All of these benefits bring more peace, and joy to our lives.

How To Start A Meditation Practice

Here is a simple starting formula:

  • Pick a time of day that you can own as consistently yours; before getting into bed, or after your morning shower and smoothie.
  • Create a place that invites you to feel calm and relaxed; a chair or cushion in corner of a quiet room, perhaps a serene piece of art or houseplant nearby.
  • Start gently, set a pleasant bell or gong timer for just 5 minutes.
  • Lightly close your eyes, breathe slowly and deeply from the bottom of your belly to the top of your ribs through your nostrils.
  • Invoke your mind’s focus on either the movement/sensation of your breath; the light awareness of the thoughts, feelings, sensations that arise; or focused thoughts or images of gratitude or compassion.
  • Be kind to yourself if you notice a constant stream of thoughts interrupting your practice, this is a normal occurrence for all of us—be patient and, over time your concentration will increase and so too will the space between thoughts.
  • Keep a journal to track your experience and insights.

We hope this helps you on your journey to balanced health. If you would like a kickstart, including guided meditations, please join us for an upcoming Basecamp Weekend Retreat, an online retreat where our expert team brings our award-winning program to you.

What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health program, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at or reach out below:

How To Be Healthy When Working From Home

Young man taking potato chip out of glass bowl while sitting on sofa in front of laptop on table and having snack

Q: I am really struggling with working from home. What should I do?

A: The typical work situation has changed dramatically since Covid. One of the outcomes was a mass migration of office workers from downtown to their dens. A variety of research on the phenomena has found both positive and negative ramifications, however, one thing all university and corporate research has pointed out is that for the foreseeable future—even well after Covid—work will be remote or from a hybrid of locations, and mostly virtual. How do we as managers and employees prepare for this change?

With 80% of “non-service” employers now permitting at least some part-time work from home, strategies are required that build employee satisfaction and productivity for the new reality. The main struggle for homebound employees is work-life balance, distractions, and loneliness from isolation, while corporations struggle to maintain the inter-employee relationships that are so vital to trust, team collaboration, and creative synergy.

For many, the honeymoon phase of working from home is over with some 55% of employees struggling from distractions such as family-shared workspace, children and pets needing attention and support, and negative world news affecting their fear of the future. But even with more flexibility to manage work hours than ever before, 66% of 2000 office workers surveyed are working more nights and weekends than they did before, and 49% find it difficult to keep boundaries, while 59% feel less effective. The blurring of work-life balance is showing up in degradation of physical, mental, and emotional health. Lack of gym and studio access, proximity to the fridge, and the ease for interruptions from the virtual world to pop up are having a negative effect on healthy lifestyle habits as well as productivity. Physical isolation is also taking its toll. The post-grad 20 to 30-year-olds who moved to a new city for employment were counting on coworkers for friendships. Zoom fatigue is setting in and many meeting participants stay blank screened (don’t turn on video), allowing the few extroverts to carry meetings. The “heartbeat” of the office where serendipitous encounters in the hall or spontaneous collaboration at the coffee machine which build trust and relationships through countless unscheduled gestures and interactions has gone missing.

The managers of the future will need to be savvy on technology and off-site work efficiency practices, but also be able to leverage virtual relationships, trust, and team synergy if they want to be leaders in maximizing employee happiness, creativity, effectiveness, and longevity. Though many surveyed employees appreciate the trust from their managers to work from home, and the freedom to customize their day, they are often complaining of boredom and loneliness. It’s too easy for distance workgroups to lose a sense of belonging, feel disconnected from the culture of the organization, and lose sight and commitment to the corporation’s aims and objectives. This can lead to withdrawal and apathy.

Now is the time to realize we are not just coping with a singular crisis. The way we work is going to change forever. So here are some considerations for both employees and management to build the healthiest and effective virtual teams:

  • Create strategies and protocols that schedule work and life separation, while allowing for some freedom and flexibility
  • Utilize the old commute time for personal health resourcing and stress reduction
  • Invest in virtual team-building activities that transmit the corporate culture of health, connection, and co-creation
  • Utilize technologies and protocols that foster face to face small group communication for relationship and trust-building which are foundational for effective brainstorming and collaborative solution finding
  • Transfer office equipment (stand up desks) and gym pass memberships to home and virtual outlets to support physical health
  • Provide workplace and health coaching as well as counseling therapeutic support for individuals who are feeling anxious or depressed from the chronic stress of Covid, but also afterward as we empower a new way of working more virtually

We hope this article helps you with ideas on how to build a sustainable approach to long-term working from home.

What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at or reach out below:

Q&A: What is Burnout & How Do I Prevent It

Q: What is burnout, and how do I prevent and/or manage it?

A: Burnout is a psychological state of physical and emotional exhaustion specifically related to occupational stress. Besides being characterized by feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, it includes increased negative or cynical feelings towards one’s job and reduced professional efficacy. The term “burnout” has been recognized by the World Health Organization and is now a legitimate medical syndrome.

A Gallup survey found 76% of employees have experienced some form of burnout, and those affected are 63% more likely to take sick days, 23% more likely to visit an emergency room, and 250% more likely to look for a new job!

Burnout is caused by a long list of things, including; a lack of social support at work (especially for remote workers and even more so during periods of isolation), unclear or undefined job expectations, too much digital inundation and interruption, a corporate culture where working evenings and weekends is rewarded, and underlying all else, work-life imbalance, or “burning the candle at both ends”.

Our society tends to think of burnout as an individual problem, solvable by yoga, breathing practices, learning to say “no”, or taking self-resilience workshops. However, more research supported by the WHO is showing that it’s also an employer’s responsibility to build anti-burnout strategies. Employees still need to make intelligent decisions; eating healthfully and regularly, moving their bodies daily, exercising appropriately, sleeping deeply for 7-9 hrs, incorporating stress-reducing activities, and maintaining satisfying relationships for support—but it’s becoming clear there is a cyclical relationship between the work environment and personal health choices. When a work environment nurtures an employee’s wellness, that employee will further invest in self-care practices that rejuvenate and charge them back up for another day of work. The opposite also happens, where a work environment is so depleting that an employee is left with zero energy at the end of the day and self-care practices fall to the wayside—instead of engaging in energy-producing, healthy activities, burnt-out employees usually resort to energy-depleting activities like drinking a glass of wine (or two or three), eating unhealthy food, and sitting on the couch watching TV (after a full day of sitting for their job).

If you find yourself feeling depleted, physically, and emotionally, at the end of your workday, you may be burning out.

How To Prevent & Manage Burnout

Try this mix of personal and managerial strategies to counter burnout for yourself and your employees:

Focus on efficacy, not hours

According to Parkinson’s law, “work expands to fill the time available for its completion”. Unfortunately, time worked does not have a great correlation with productivity. Encourage yourself and your staff to redefine performance as something based on results, not hours worked. Consider some of these questions during the workday to facilitate this shift:

— Is this task still important or has the situation changed?

— Am I really the only person who can do this?

— Is this the most important thing right now, or am I doing it to avoid something else?

— If this is the only thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied with my work when I leave?

Prioritize tasks

Avoid the misnomer of multi-tasking by concentrating on one prioritized task at a time. Jumping from one task to another is not an efficient use of your energy and has been proven to increase the completion time for both tasks by 25%.

Limit distractions

Avoid multi-platform and device interruptions when focusing on a project or task. It takes significant time and energy to return to a concentrated state.

Take breaks

Take regular breaks to rejuvenate the mind and move the body before, during, and after work. This is a necessary investment in your overall productivity.

Minimize communication

The average manager is spending 8 hours per week on email communication (avg 200 emails per day) and another 1 to 2 days a week in meetings. Try to encourage only essential emails and meetings from being sent and scheduled.

Empower your team

Empower your employees to set their own schedules and make decisions. Too much deliberation around meetings and back-and-forth decision making steal productive time from individuals.

Support your tribe

Offer positive communication and rewards, and go to bat for them when deadlines and workloads are unreasonable.

Preventing burnout is both a corporate cultural problem and a personal energy management problem. It’s important to not feel shame if we are suffering from burnout, but instead become curious about our relationship with work and examine our efficacy vs hours work ratio, our commitment to establishing boundaries, and the culture our company promotes…and then initiate change.

What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at or reach out below: