It’s common for those at meetings and conferences to sit for long periods of time and consume a lot of information in short bursts. Coffee breaks are usually used to boost energy and break up the event day. Schools, on the other hand, use recess and classroom exercise to keep kids alert.
Guess which works best?
Exercise can be easily be folded into an event agenda. Use them to kickstart energy when it lags (typically midmorning and midafternoon), as time fillers for unplanned program gaps and/or social icebreakers that build camaraderie. Think of coffee breaks as comfort food for meeting planners: We want them out of habit, not because they’re good for us.
Here are a few likely comments/objections to fitness breaks, plus tips on overcoming them.
1) “I have no time. My event is jam-packed with sessions.”
Tightly scheduled learning sessions can be counterproductive and put attendees at risk for information overload. Brief fitness breaks keep the participants entertained and help them recharge their bodies and minds.
2) “There’s no space.”
Not true. The exercises at X bytes can be done at participants’ seats in almost any meeting room. In settings where space between or in front of chairs is tight, participants naturally adapt by not lifting their arms or legs as high, turning their bodies or shifting their chairs.
Let’s face it. Things don’t always go as we wish they did even with the best-planned events. Presentations start late or end early. Speakers fail to show up. What do you do with a room full of waiting attendees? Get them up and encourage them to move.
4) “People don’t want to sweat.”
Fitness breaks at conferences are meant to get blood flowing to the muscles and oxygen g to the brain. They can easily be sweat-free static and dynamic stretches, appropriately tailored for business attire.
5) “We don’t need energy boosters. We have coffee breaks.”
Not true in the physiological sense. Coffee and soft drinks come with high-carb, sugary snacks — cookies and pastries, mostly. They don’t provide a pick-me-up that lasts. Coffee and snacks may be energizing in the short term, but most people end up feeling more fatigued once the caffeine and sugar high wear off. Moving, even a little bit, keeps attendees awake and alert.
6) “People may feel awkward exercising in a group setting.”
Yes, some people may feel awkward at first. But usually the chance to move proves to be a social icebreaker that builds camaraderie, helps attendees relax, and makes them laugh and smile. Attendees often embrace the initial awkwardness of “having to get up and exercise” as a team effort. An infectious group energy provides gentle peer pressure for everyone to join in.
Some conferences include group walks or yoga breaks, typically in early morning or at the end of the day. They’re not very popular. What you need are active breaks throughout the day, breaks that get all attendees up and moving can take your conference fitness and learning to a new level.
8) “Fitness breaks won’t appeal to our conservative male audience.”
Data just doesn’t back this up. Fitness breaks appeal to a range of audiences and demographics, regardless of age, gender, profession or occupation. These breaks are not just about exercise, they’re about buildin esprit de corps and taking participants outside their comfort zones together.
Which side of the conversation do you come down on? Please leave your comments in the box below.