by Jessi Minneci | February 27, 2019
How do meeting planners, attendees and travelers make time for personal wellness during trips? According to a new report, it's not always easy to balance business and a healthy lifestyle. A study by the Incentive Research Foundation found that 64 percent of planners said their meetings are only "somewhat healthy," and with focus flourishing around health and wellness on the road, travelers are looking to better implement wellness into their daily routines. The study of 329 meeting planners, agencies and third parties was conducted in December 2018 and January 2019.
  
The "IRF Wellness in Meetings and Incentive Travel Study" examines the disconnect between desired wellness goals and the actual implementation of such during travel. If these goals are so anticipated, why and how are they not able to be met? "Meetings and incentive travel need to be designed to be healthier, and most health and wellness practices have a low impact on the budget," said IRF President Melissa Van Dyke. "The 'IRF 2019 Wellness in Meetings and Incentive Travel Study' identifies health and wellness practices that are implemented with greater frequency and that have the most significant impact."
 
Among key findings from the survey:

Of the 26 wellness practices outlined in the study, the only standard procedures (ranking above 50 percent) involve smoke-free facilities and offering water and/or reduced-calorie drinks at events.

Researchers found only nine of the 26 wellness practices studied would require additional funds.

Emerging healthy practices include serving fish, chicken, or lean meats; healthy snacks (nuts, fruit), and  gluten-free options. Other moves include providing free access to a fitness facility and encouraging movement throughout the program. 

Healthy food and beverage (33 percent) and group exercise (25 percent) were ranked as the most impactful wellness practices.

The majority of meeting planners polled (56 percent) said the stress of planning has had a negative impact on their personal life - and they offered wellness strategies to manage this stress.
 
When asked what healthy practices they planned that were most effective, respondents said:

Setting up walking trails throughout the convention center;

Working with the culinary team to stress importance on healthy menus that are cost effective and will work within a budget;

Using wellness speakers for sessions, then offering snacks that directly pertain to the speaker's message;

Making a fitness center available to attendees;

Offering steps/walking competitions;

Incorporating soft lighting and aromatherapy into the event.
 
Meeting planners also weighed in on what isn't working for them. Among their "fails":

Restricting F&B options too strenuously (such as eliminating sweet snacks altogether);

Offering the "wrong" (too difficult) type of exercise classes;

Scheduling fitness classes that start too early;

Cramming agendas with too many activities;

Offering uncomfortable alternative seating options (e.g., yoga balls instead of comfortable chairs).