Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now in Washington, DC.
Happier and healthier attendees also leads to better learning. A look at the American Public Health Association's strategy to get attendees moving.
Conferences can wreak havoc on attendees’ healthy habits. Among the culprits: long hours, open bars, lots of sitting in sessions, and a never-ending flow of food.
But associations have started to realize that having healthier food options and activities available onsite leads not only to happier and healthier attendees but also to better learning.
The American Public Health Association is one case in point. At its October 2016 Annual Meeting & Expo in Denver, APHA offered attendees a number of wellness options. Its Wellness Center at the convention center provided attendees with daily activities to stay healthy, as well as tools—like coloring books and puzzles—to help them reflect and relax if they were craving some quiet time.
“As public health professionals and enthusiasts, we know sitting is the new smoking, and with events going on all day, promoting healthy meeting habits is a challenge,” says the meeting’s website.
With the help of sponsor AARP, APHA made sure the Wellness Center featured numerous activities to appeal to attendees’ varied interests—everything from early-morning yoga to group runs and guided walks to dance classes.
Speaking of dance, APHA 2016 had an official one. Attendees could watch a video and practice their moves before the meeting and then join others to perform it as a group on Sunday evening.
But the activity that got attendees moving the most was APHA’s second-annual Steps Challenge. This year, registered participants walked or ran nearly 2.5 million steps—that’s 1,250 miles—in three days. The winners in both the runners and walkers category logged more than 75,000 steps each.
And the walking hasn’t stopped yet: People are still strolling toward APHA’s 1 Billion Steps Challenge, which started on January 9 and runs through the end of National Public Health Week in early April.
[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Meetings Memo: Keep Moving."]