As the saying goes, “A healthy mind is a healthy body,” we’ve long known physical exercise and boosting your brainpower and memory go hand in hand. In fact, according to a study done by the Department of Exercise Science at the University of Georgia, even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions.

So it’s little wonder that active meetings and encouraging physical engagement amongst participants are becoming part of the landscape for furthering the knowledge exchange at conferences.

Today’s meeting planners are increasingly tapping into a destination’s lifestyle to help achieve this healthy hit. As part of the checklist to align a conference with its key attributes and help delegates absorb far more during the sessions, they’re looking at how easy is it for delegates to effortlessly head outside for a run, for example. Can they easily swap a pleasant walk to the conference instead a cab? Is it a social place already geared towards community activities that delegates could join in too — and feel more rewarded in the process?

As part of a coastline devoted to a healthier lifestyle, places such as Vancouver deliver this destination package — from the city’s well-known enthusiasm for exercise to its reputation for good local, seasonal and often organic food.

Beyond simply admiring handsome harbour views and its trifecta of mountain, ocean and forest during business meetings at the Vancouver Convention Centre, it’s a backdrop that clearly inspires delegates to take advantage of marrying a healthy lifestyle along with their time at a conference and recharge their brain’s batteries for the next talk or panel.

Increasingly, conference planners are incorporating healthy aspects into their meetings such as morning yoga classes, standing meetings or progressive receptions. Some organizers are even engaging the local community in their physical activity, like the World Congress of Diabetes last December who developed an innovative 5-kilometre community run (5K@IDF) as part of their 8,000-strong delegate event. With the aim of emphasizing the need for increased physical activity to help prevent diabetes (its T-shirts were emblazoned with “Let’s exercise to change diabetes”), the free event brought together many of the conference attendees, as well as locals, to enjoy the nearby Seawall, the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path. The lit-up nighttime route took the 700 runners and walkers away from the meeting room and past notable landmarks such as the 2010 Olympic Cauldron and feted Vancouver author/artist Douglas Coupland’s Digital Orca — a dramatic way to ensure that the destination itself is part of a conference’s hearty lifestyle.

And when all that exercise builds up an appetite, meeting planners need to know the destination’s food scene is reflective of its healthy and active drive. Recently the Vancouver Convention Centre was certified as a Healthy Venue by the World Obesity Federation which recognizes our commitment to offering our staff and guests healthier choices in terms of well being and nutrition. One of the key factors that lead to the Healthy Venues recognition is the diligence of the Vancouver Convention Centre’s highly-talented culinary team who produces an amazing range of meals for clients as diverse as international conventions, corporate meetings and weddings. With everything from salad dressings and stocks to whole grain bread made in house, the kitchens are able to ensure that guests are offered delicious, healthy menu items that feature reduced fat, sugar and sodium.

Five Quick Tips for Active Meetings:

  1. Make physical activity easy for your delegates, include walking maps of the area, consider a shoe check
  2. Schedule group physical activities as part of your agenda like a community run or yoga class
  3. Consider adding standing room at the back of your meeting space
  4. Encourage nutritious eating by presenting healthy options
  5. Make hydration stations a priority throughout the meeting space