by Agatha Gilmore | March 01, 2013
It's no secret that a good diet and exercise are key to a healthy lifestyle. But experts say they're also important elements of productive meetings. "Wellness has a positive impact on the mind," notes Sean Anderson, vice president of operations for Sodexo, a provider of food and conference-center management services. "Busy planners find it helps increase their attendees' engagement and productivity, ultimately leading to better results."

A growing number of conference centers are noting that connection and finding new ways to help groups put wellness on the meeting agenda.

The Meetings Connection
"The way in which effective meetings are defined and measured now has changed dramatically," notes Anderson. "If you can't put a finger on specific outcomes and productivity, there's a question as to whether that meeting will happen at all."

Health and wellness play a key role in encouraging that productivity, notes Karen Ansel, MS, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and co-author of The Calendar Diet: A Month by Month Guide to Losing Weight While Living Your Life (Lightning Source Inc.). "Nutrition is critical for overall wellness," she says. "Studies show that the foods we eat directly impact our brain health, determining how clearly we think, how much energy we have and even how happy we are." (See related M&C article, "Brain Food Comes to Meetings.")

"For example," Ansel continues, "focusing on foods that are digested slowly, such as protein, fiber and moderate amounts of complex carbohydrates, can help keep blood sugar levels on an even keel, giving you more energy and helping you focus more efficiently. Staying hydrated and eating more protein can fight fatigue."

Wellness also is about team building, says Moses Debord, general manager of the High Country Conference Center in Flagstaff, Ariz. "Getting your group to relax together helps to build that team environment as much as it does attendees' individual well-being."

Adds Ansel, "If you're cranky or lethargic because you skipped breakfast or are coming down from a sugar high from that donut you ate, you're not going to be a very effective team member."