Wellbody Academy History

Wellbody Academy SealBack in the 1930s, Eleanor Wellbody had an idea. She thought that people could take charge of their health by following some simple and common sense rules about exercise, eating, good hygiene, and plenty of undisturbed sleep. She also thought that there were probably lots of fun ways to share these healthy messages with others.

Eleanor had been involved in matters of health for as long as she could remember. She came from a long line of doctors, and spent her early years providing health care to those who could not afford it. She saw the Wellbody Academy as an opportunity to focus on promoting wellness rather than treating disease, and that intrigued her.

Eleanor Wellbody trekked the Washington backcountry until she found a site for her Academy. She picked up a hammer and began tinkering and--over time--made her vision of a play-and-apparatus-based approach to wellness education a reality.

Over the years, word about the Wellbody Academy got out, and visitors from all walks of life began coming by. Some stayed for a few days, while others stayed for years--all were welcome.

Arden Wellbody becomes part of the Academy

As the Wellbody Academy's reputation grew, Eleanor recruited her nephew--Arden Wellbody--to help her in her efforts. Arden had grown up spending summers at the Academy, and in his youth displayed a particular flair for dreaming up new playful health promotion contraptions. Eleanor's appeal for help moved him, and after considering how much positive impact his work at the Academy could have, he decided to make the Wellbody Academy his life's work.

It was Arden Wellbody who instituted the practice that the Academy later became quite famous for--inviting visiting scholars and researchers to share their cutting-edge research with Academy students. He also developed the Academy seal, which synopsizes the key steps to successfully making a wellness change. The seal states simply: Imagine--Plan--Grow. Arden also recruited mentors from the ranks of Academy students over the years. Mentors continue to play important roles at the Academy to this day.

The Wellbody Academy's founding premise that one can always do something--take concrete steps--to improve one's wellbeing, has stood the test of time. The recommendations of what those specific steps are have been refined as scientific understanding has advanced. Today the Wellbody Academy prides itself in promoting only vetted, evidence-based recommendations for healthy living. It also prides itself that its mentors spend time participating in and tracking the cutting-edge science that will provide the next generation of solid, evidence-based health advice.

Who is Arden Wellbody and what has he done?

Nobody is sure exactly when Arden Wellbody was born, but we do know that as a youth at some point in the 1940s, he began spending summers at his aunt's Academy of Health and Wellness. The words most often used to describe the young Arden were "alert" and "precocious."

Arden does not speak much about himself--he is a doer. When asked about his past, he always manages to flip the question around and elicit meaningful information from the original inquirer. However he is not above occasionally dropping comments that suggest some of the exotic and interesting things he has become involved in over the years. His formal affiliation with the Academy began in the late 1950s.

Here's what we do know about Arden Wellbody.

In August of 1955, he was sighted volunteering in Raleigh, North Carolina participating in search and rescue missions for hurricane victims from the deadly Hurricane Diane. Two years later, he was back, this time providing first aid to individuals traumatized by Hurricane Audrey. It is said that this experience moved him to develop and distribute emergency preparedness kits, later expanding his efforts to promoting disaster awareness to coastal families.

In 1961, he gave a keynote address to graduates of the Klangfurt College of Mechanical and Civil Engineering. While admonishing the students to go out and build great works for the betterment of humanity, he also let them in on his latest drill bit design which he perfected while refurbishing the Academy's original Loft-a-Palooza. (Wellbody never patented his many inventions, believing that such knowledge should be shared with the world at large.)

Arden personifies the creative spirit, as defined by Halbert Dunn, M.D. who is generally credited as the father of the modern wellness movement. Dunn described the creative spirit as "an expression of self, adventuring into the unknown in search for universal truth." Arden attended some of Dunn's early lectures on wellness and was one of the first to read his book, High Level Wellness.

In the early-1960s Arden was tapped on the shoulder by John F. Kennedy to help in the development of a national program to improve fitness in the schools as a part of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Although he cannot be credited with the immortal chicken fat song ("Go, you chicken fat, go"), some other inspiring calisthenics jingles have been attributed to him. Unfortunately, they have been lost to the sands of time.

In the fall of 1973 Arden was spotted on a Himalayan hillside amidst a grove of pomegranate trees. The hikers who encountered him reported that he stated he was collecting the fruits for an upcoming study on the health benefits of pomegranate juice.

In 1984 after establishing the Academy's ground-breaking visiting scientist program, Arden apparently slipped away to attend the National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference where osteoporosis was first identified as a major health challenge. The NIH's report stated that increasing calcium in the diet was a viable preventative strategy and recommended an increase in the mineral's recommended daily allowance. The beneficial role of exercise was alluded to but remained unproven. Professor Wellbody enlisted his students to participate in later clinical trials that proved the importance of weight-bearing exercise on preventing this bone-thinning disease.

In the spring of 1997, Arden Wellbody decided to trek across Washington State, eating only locally grown and bred foods. He made a point of trying out the swing sets on every playground that he encountered. He took twenty-seven Academy students with him--the youngest being 13 and the oldest being 83.

In 2004, Arden Wellbody spent 12 consecutive days--and nights--in a sleep laboratory in order to help researchers explore how sleep deprivation affects concentration. He was reportedly delighted to return to his own mattress at the Academy.

Where will Arden Wellbody turn up next, and what will he be doing?