by Jennifer Lee | March 01, 2016

While much can get done while sitting in a room, association meeting planners know that productivity rises when attendees are stimulated and energized. Luckily, a number of wellness programs are providing unique offerings that can either be the focal point or seamlessly incorporated into an agenda. From a full day’s worth of healthy and fun classes to a 15-minute breakout activity aimed at getting attendees moving, the increasing number of wellness choices offered for groups today indicate that, for many, it’s not so much of an option as it is a preference.

The Healthy Living (or Executive Health) Program at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, is ideal for groups that want to completely focus on wellness. According to Mike Casey, the program’s corporate relations manager, it’s the “science-based and outcomes-focused” approaches that set the program apart. “Most groups that come to us are planning an off-site meeting,” he said. “They’re looking to do something different, to provide a different experience for their membership,” said Casey.

Association planners can work with staff at the Healthy Living Program to create an experience that is tailored to their needs. Sessions incorporate a variety of activities and educational sessions; popular picks include a physician who discusses the importance of a healthy lifestyle, a resiliency session that walks participants through stress-coping mechanisms, and exercises that demonstrate simple ways attendees can incorporate movement into their day. Another favorite is the “participation kitchen,” in which groups prepare a healthy meal under the eyes of an executive wellness chef or a registered dietician. “We call it the ‘participation kitchen’—it’s not a demonstration kitchen—because you’re rolling up your sleeves and you’re doing it,” Casey said, noting that, as with all of the activities of the center, the goal is for attendees to take the skills they’re learning and put them into practice at home.

One group that walked away from the center with a positive experience was the Institute for Health & Productivity Management, a nonprofit, global organization whose mission is to “get employers to understand that health is an investment, not just a cost,” said Sean Sullivan, its president and CEO. Last spring, the organization hosted a two-day forum at the Healthy Living Center with more than 35 executives from major companies including Chevron, Shell, the Compass Group and MetLife. Some attendees described it as one of the best experiences they’ve ever had because the program connected all areas of healthy living, said Deborah Love, the institute’s executive vice-president and chief operating officer.

Groups that are looking to break a sweat can sign up for boot camp at the brand-new, 400-room Hilton/West Palm Beach in Florida, which opened at the end of January with 24,000 square feet of meeting space and direct access to the adjacent Palm Beach County Convention Center. The 45-minute boot camp incorporates weight exercises and low-impact cardio components. According to John Parkinson, who doubles as the hotel’s general manager and boot camp leader, four groups had already signed up for the boot camp prior to its opening.

Attendees can make use of other on-site amenities or take advantage of the Hilton’s partnership with the gym across the street, which is free for hotel guests. In addition, the hotel offers numerous fresh, low-calorie items. “We want the hotel to embody what West Palm Beach has to offer,” Parkinson said.

Groups that stay at the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino, in the Convention Center District of San Juan, may find that not only is walking the best mode of transportation—the Puerto Rico Convention Center is adjacent—but is a pleasant way to explore the nearby marina and area attractions. Alternately, those who are scheduled for a day’s worth of meetings don’t have to stay stationary. The 503-room hotel, which features 40,000 square feet of event space, organizes standing meetings upon request and also recently purchased stationary bikes that attendees can use during functions. “The hospitality industry has had to adapt to the fact that today’s business traveler appreciates brands that offer simple and efficient options for them to be able to stay healthy away from home,” said Jeannette Aviles, the director of sales and marketing.

Two luxury resorts have recently brought on the expertise of Well & Being, a spa brand whose programs put an emphasis on wellness. The recently renovated Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in Arizona and the Four Seasons Resort & Club Dallas at Las Colinas in Texas both offer Well & Being programs. Offerings include group fitness classes, wellness speakers and 15-minute breakout sessions that can serve as a quick re-energizer. And the “mason jar challenge” is a popular team-building activity in which groups create a healthy salad in a mason jar, which is then judged by a chef, nutritionist or mindful eating coach. The activity is a favorite because it easily rolls over into lunch and doesn’t detract from the main event.

At the northern foot of the Golden Gate Bridge, overlooking San Francisco Bay, the 142-room Cavallo Point–The Lodge at the Golden Gate in Sausalito, California, offers a tranquil setting for activities that cater to all kinds of interests: there’s a cooking school, hiking, yoga, bocce and the 11,000-square-foot Healing Arts Center & Spa, which is available for executive workshops and retreats. Meetings can take place on the property’s 29,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor function space.

One of the lodge’s newest group offerings is Well-Fit, an outdoor fitness program that includes a “physically energizing—and mentally rewarding—60-minute workout with certified trainers, and a breathtaking view overlooking the bridge and the city skyline,” said Jeff Rubenstein, the property’s director of marketing. The program is available for participants of all experience levels and ages, and an expert team of “experience designers” help build a customized program to fit a group’s specific needs and culture, he said.

The customized experience is an expectation most event planners have when booking a wellness or fitness program into their agenda. It’s also worth noting that while rigorous challenges are still an option, a more mindful approach to today’s wellness experience will take a holistic view of both the mind and body, which attendees can feel good about long after the meeting is over.