Any presenter will tell you that one of the worst times to make a presentation or give a speech is immediately after lunch. The end of the day also ranks high in the least favourite times to speak.
There is a long held adage, “What the bottom cannot endure, the mind cannot absorb.” The reality is that the more people remain sedentary at a special event, working in an office or indeed throughout the whole day, the less well they function.
Up to the time of our great grandparents, most people spent their days hunting, fishing, mining, harvesting crops, cutting down trees or in other highly physical activities. To go anywhere, one had to walk or ride a horse. The history of humanity has conditioned our bodies to be moving machines. The more we move, the better we are. To someone 500 years ago being chased by a bear, this notion would seem self-evident.
Social media lifestyles
Now most of us spend a large part of our days sitting looking at electronic devises – as I am doing writing this article. Aside from the issues of a social media lifestyle creating the stress of debilitating work-life balances and unwise self-absorption, the sheer act of sitting and having a sedentary lifestyle is harming us to an almost lethal extent.
How sedentary are we?
In total, Americans are sitting an average of 13 hours a day and sleeping an average of 8 hours resulting in a sedentary lifestyle of around 21 hours a day.
A survey commissioned by Ergotron found that on top of all of that sitting at work, and for meals and commuting, the respondents:
- Sit another one to two hours while watching TV
- Game another one to two hours
- Lounge for one to two hours doing things such as reading
- Use their home computer for one to two hours
So how does all of this sitting make us feel? In a word – lousy.
The Journal of the American Heart Association found that each hour spent watching television on a daily basis is associated with an increased risk of death from heart disease as well as increased risks of cancer. It is sometimes claimed that sitting around and not moving for several hours is the equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes. (Perhaps chairs will soon need to have health warnings attached to them.)
It is no surprise to learn that all these immobility health complications are depressing. The American Journal of Preventative Medicine followed 9,000 middle-aged women and determined that those who sat longer and did not meet minimum exercise requirements suffered from depression at much higher rates compared to women who sat less and exercised more. When it came to sitting, those who sat for more than seven hours a day were 47 per cent more likely to suffer from depression than those who sat four hours or less.
The good news is many people realize the risks of the “sitting disease.” In the Ergotron study, 74 per cent believe that sitting too much could lead to an early death.
Do we just have to sit there and take it? No.
These complex problems have an obviously simple solution: Get up and walk around.
A valuable contribution that special event planners could do when organizing conferences and other events that require a lot of sitting is to build some “movin’ around time” into the schedule. It will keep the attendees more engaged and ensure more attention for the speakers – all of which would be good news for the client hosting the event.
Exercise programs can be simple or ambitious
Any kind of planned movement is good. The American Heart Institute recommends that everyone walk a minimum of 250 steps per hour and 10,000 per day. So simply having everyone walk around the room taking 250 steps will at least cover an hour of the program.
It might be possible to build something more ambitious into the program, like setting aside 30 minutes for some movement and exercise. I have recently started doing Pilates and yoga classes. Frankly, me doing Pilates and yoga are the equivalent of a walrus taking up ballet. If I can do it, anyone can.
As you may know, Joseph Pilates developed Pilates in the 19th century. It focuses on developing core strength. Yoga has a far more profound past. It groups physical, mental and spiritual practices. Both Pilates and Yoga can be customized to meet the needs from the most robust enthusiast to those with physical limitations. There are no elaborate equipment or staging requirements. A simple mat can be helpful.
There are a number of skilled and accredited instructors who can both design a customized program for attendees and lead the exercise class.
Perhaps this could be the beginning of the special events movement. No longer will anyone want to chair a meeting and everyone will want to establish standing committees. Building in exercise programs into special events could be at first a little daunting. Yet, as we all know, it is stretch goals that can achieve real results.