From the moment you enter the grounds at Thanyapura, it's clear that this is no ordinary resort. Its 23-hectare plot may include a luxury hotel, a few swimming pools and some leisure activities, but the rooms are filled with world-class athletes, the main pool is Olympic-size with an underwater video analysis window, and the sports facilities include a full-size rugby pitch and the only covered tennis courts in Phuket.
Such amenities have made Thanyapura one of the most talked-about training centres for professional and amateur athletes. But a growing number of visitors aren't coming to this corner of Thailand to get fit and perfect their freestyle technique; they're coming to dip their toes in what they hope is a modern-day fountain of youth.
"I believe the fountain of youth is actually the combination here," says Dr Michael Klentze, Thanyapura's chief medical and scientific officer, and a leading specialist in anti-ageing and regenerative medicine. "You have the sports facilities, the mind centre, good food and support by the clinic."
Klentze, who is also founder of the Klentze Medical Faculty specialising in preventive medicine, is one of a handful of internationally renowned doctors working with luxury resorts to offer scientific-based programmes designed to help guests battle the ageing process. The hi-tech approach goes beyond a standard physical or detox regimen to include biological assessments, joint-health evaluations, genetic testing and even stem-cell stimulation.
"When you go to a doctor, you have standard laboratory testing, for example cholesterol or kidney function. But this is very superficial," Klentze says. "We want to know earlier - is there anything developing in their cells that could lead, finally, to a change in these standard tests?"
Based on the results, in-house doctors will provide nutritional and lifestyle advice, prescribe treatments and supplements, and be available for follow-up questions even months after a guest's visit. During their stay, guests can enjoy all the usual perks of a luxury retreat: regular massages, aesthetic treatments, specially designed meals or simply lounging by the pool.
The Thanyapura Integrative Health Centre, for example, comprises several treatment rooms and doctors' offices next to the fitness centre and martial arts studios. Besides weight loss, detox and de-stress programmes, it offers a range of targeted services aimed at delaying - and even reversing - the effects of ageing.
"Worldwide, there is a misunderstanding among many people about anti-ageing. Anti-ageing is a medical field - it's not aesthetics," Klentze says. "It's a huge field of scientific development in the last 30 to 40 years, to influence the ageing process and the way you can stop the development of ageing-related diseases."
Considered the pioneer of the five-star detox, Dr Henri Chenot recently introduced a Regenerating Anti-Ageing Programme at Italy's plush Palace Merano hotel. The weeklong programme includes a hormonal analysis, body densitometry scan, modified diet and customised treatments.
"The programme is designed to provide first-hand information on the ageing process. It is a starting point and we recommend repeating it every six months," says Chenot, who notes that the average age of clients visiting Espace Henri Chenot has been declining in recent years. "Many young people have understood that we all need a 'pit stop' and the earlier we begin, the better we will age."
Chenot and Klentze stress the importance of education, providing clients with the necessary information to improve the quality and duration of their lives long after they leave the resort. "People should come to us as young as possible because we try to educate them," Klentze says. "And then it's never-ending because it's never too late to start again with preventive medicine - even if you're 85, you can be 95, so why shouldn't you prevent? And reverse? With our stem cell programme we can reverse a lot of age-related problems like knee problems, diabetes, heart problems and so on."
It's a sentiment shared by Professor Jacques Proust, founder of the Nescens centre for preventive medicine and developer of La Réserve Spa Genève's newly launched Better-Ageing Programmes. "Anytime it's important to think about a better-ageing philosophy. If people start to take care of themselves around 25 years old, the benefits when they are 40 years old will be stronger," he says. "It is, however, those in the 45 to 65 age bracket that stand to benefit most from this preventive approach, since the risk factors and the prevalence of diseases increase considerably during this period."
A five-star hotel on the shores of Switzerland's Lake Geneva, La Réserve Genève boasts a 2,000-square-metre spa with indoor pool and 17 treatment rooms, welcoming up to 10 guests at a time for four- or seven-day programmes. "After medical check-ups and a personalised itinerary, the [guest] spends a relaxing and resourceful time at La Réserve Spa, which does not look like a clinic but an oasis of wellness," Proust says. "The purpose is to feel totally renewed after few days, not exhausted. Nescens Better-Ageing Programmes should give them the motivation to change their habits once back at home."
Proust, like Klentze and Chenot, sees preventive medicine as the future - with programmes such as the ones they offer a way to slow down, take stock and prevent potential health problems from surfacing years later. "People are the architects of their own lives," Klentze says, "so sometimes you have to find a way to change the building".
Besides access to its unique blend of body and mind services, including an innovative Mind Centre specialising in meditation and related practices, one of the biggest draws at Thanyapura is Dr Michael Klentze's stem cell programme.
In just 30 minutes, doctors can extract a patient's blood, mix it with special factors to stimulate growth and return it to the body to help with repair.
"This is what you can call regenerative medicine," Klentze says. Patients without apparent problems may not feel any immediate results, but over time the stem cells should provide an anti-ageing boost.
The clinic also offers an aesthetic treatment that involves a customised stem cell cream that is proven to heal burns in half the time of normal treatments.
"When you come for aesthetics, you would only come because of the stem cells," Klentze says. "Botox you can get anywhere."