Wellness Options Flourish During Virtual Events

Since the start of the pandemic, associations have transitioned their fitness and wellness offerings at conferences to virtual ones. Here’s a look at how they’re keeping self-care and workouts top of mind during their online events.

For the past several years, fun runs, yoga classes, and meditation sessions were often incorporated into in-person conferences.

And they haven’t gone anywhere during the pandemic. In fact, wellness activities are still a staple of virtual and hybrid events. Here’s a look at how association conferences have maintained these opportunities during their online conferences since March 2020.

First up is the American Association of Endodontists. After its April 2020 in-person annual meeting was cancelled, AAE launched the 2020 Endo Wellness Challenge, powered by Heka Health, over four days in September as an alternative event.

The challenge was to see how many steps participants could take during the challenge, with tracked steps, a leaderboard, and overall step count featured on the Heka Health app. Participants were competing for top prizes like free registration to AAE’s 2021 virtual annual meeting and a complimentary subscription to “Endo on Demand,” an educational content platform.

“It really was something we wanted to do to support overall health and wellness,” Assistant Executive Director Tanya Kinsman told Convene magazine. “And we wanted it for not only health and wellness for the individual, but also for the association and for the endodontic community. We really encouraged any friends, family, even corporate partners who might not necessarily be sponsoring it—it was open to anyone to join.”

Beyond wellness, the app also gave sponsors the opportunity to connect with AAE members they would typically speak with at in-person events. Through the app, “the sponsor could send out an email with a video link or set up virtual sales calls,” Kinsman said.

Plus, the challenge allowed members to raise money for the AAE Foundation for Endodontics. Participants were able to match a dollar contribution for each step or mile completed with a friend, donate $5 per mile achieved, or challenge colleagues to a “step bet.” Users could also buy “bonus steps” to add to their step count by making in-app donations. According to Kinsman, participants walked a collective 5 million steps and donated $20,000 to the foundation during the event.

AAE isn’t the only group emphasizing virtual wellness: Knowing that its members were feeling stressed and burned out supporting children and families, the Association of Early Childhood Educators of Alberta hosted an online wellness conference last month. Sessions covered everything from finding your balance to understanding the neurobiology of stress to recognizing the importance of self-care.

Then there’s the National Conference Association’s virtual convention. During the March 2021 meeting, NCA hosted a yoga and stretching break with Ailis Garcia, founder of The Strong Movement. Along those same lines, the Tennessee Bar Association held daily workouts during its June 2020 virtual convention. Among the options offered: Zumba, dance, body sculpting, and chair yoga.

Personally, I never imagined myself being a fan of virtual wellness activities. But, as we hit 15 months since the start of the pandemic, I’ve found myself relying on apps like Peloton, Johnson & Johnson Official 7 Minute Workout, and Obe Fitness to get home workouts in. So, it’s no surprise that meeting participants are willing to take advantage of virtual workout and wellness opportunities too.

What wellness activities have you incorporated into your virtual and hybrid conferences? Please share in the comments.

(FG Trade/E+/Getty Images Plus)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!