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Welcome to the Health Defence Blog - a blog about health, wellness and a healthier you. Brought to you by the Health Defence team at Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, you'll find up-to-date information on a range of topics from what's in your food to the latest advice on e-cigarettes!


Megan - Health Promotion Specialist

July 9, 2017

Meetings! Love or hate them, they can make up a big part of our working day. With many of us spending a third of our day (if not more) at work, the hours spent in meetings quickly add up. 

But are we doing meetings well? What is a ‘healthy meeting’ and why should we be adopting them?

A healthy meeting, in other words, simply considers all aspects of the meeting to help keep your colleagues (and yourself) alert & engaged, and healthy & happy at the same time. From the food that’s provided to the scheduling of breaks and promoting active travel, a healthy meeting can help to increase productivity and concentration.

Pick the right fuel!

Whilst pastries and flavoured coffees might be tempting, providing healthy food in the workplace can improve dietary intake. The result: less fatigue and better decision-making (plus healthier staff).

What this means is swapping the calorie-laden pastries for fruit skewers in the morning, sausage rolls for wholegrain sandwiches at lunch, and snack-time crisps for wholegrain crackers or vegetable sticks with yummy dips like low-fat hummus or guacamole (more healthy snack ideas here).

And don’t forget hydration! Staying well hydrated improves cognitive function and memory (especially on a warm day), so have plenty of low-sugar beverages available – water, unsweetened tea or herbal drinks and coffee. Thinking about the placement of water is also important. For example, staff will be prompted to drink more water if it’s easy to reach (i.e. bottles or jugs in the middle of the table) and displayed nicely – why not consider flavouring water with cucumber or lemon slices.

Set the scene

Just as the saying goes, first impressions count. And that goes for the environment or venue too. You might want to consider:

  • Good lighting – a dark room may induce sleepiness! Bright (natural) lighting is best.
  • Temperature: is the room a comfortable temperature? Think about airflow (is there aircon or a fan to circulate the air) and open a window for fresh air if you can.
  • Can you take it outdoors?  Walking meetings are becoming more popular and are an easy way to reach the recommended 30 minutes of daily moderate activity. They have even been found to encourage creative thinking! In fact, I have one colleague who won’t meet unless it’s a ‘walking meeting’!

Move it, move it

Sedentary activity increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and early death and most of us are sitting for far too long each day – which includes meetings! Health risks can start to occur after just 4 hours of sitting, so factoring standing and moving breaks into meetings is crucial.

  • Implement a standing/stretching break once every hour – set a timer or schedule this into the meeting agenda. Try marching on the spot and stretching out your legs, arms, hands and neck.
  • Encourage a brisk walk over the lunch break – when sending out the meeting details, encourage attendees to bring appropriate shoes and suggest a route near the venue.
  • Stand during the meeting – have an allocated area where meeting attendees can stand at the side or at the back of room. You could even try standing for the first 5 minutes of every meeting.
  • Consider how attendees are getting to the meeting – can you suggest a nice walking or cycling route? Where can they leave their bike?

For more information on reducing sedentary activity in the workplace and for a 3-minute seated yoga workout, read the “We can’t stand sitting” blog!

Please be upstanding! A great example by the SCPN, encouraging ‘standing friendly’ meetings

Ground rules

A healthy meeting is also a happy meeting where everyone participates, the meeting starts and finishes on time, the agenda is followed, and the outcomes and action points are agreed upon.

Perhaps you might want to discuss “ground rules” at the start of the meeting – what do you want to achieve? Is this realistic in the time given?

Some things that we find helpful:

  • Allocate a time keeper – nothing is worse than a meeting that seems never-ending; set time limits and stick to them. If you’re not getting the results you want, take 5 (fuel up, stretch) and come back to it.
  • An obvious but important one – give everyone a chance to speak, perhaps allocate a time limit so that each person gets a fair hearing.
  • Set realistic action points – no one likes leaving a meeting feeling more stressed than when they arrived. Ensure that the workload is evenly distributed and staff have the opportunity to express their concerns before they leave.
  • Humour – last but not least, a bit of laughter during meetings can lighten the mood, improve mental health and foster relationships!


The Scottish Cancer Prevention Network (SCPN) has a helpful ‘Healthy Meetings Scorecard’ to get you started! Packed with practical tips for meetings that run for more than 4 hours, you can find out more and get your copy here.



Is there anything you would add to this list? How do you plan your healthy meetings?

***Disclaimer: always seek medical advice before starting a new diet, exercise regime or medication. The information in these articles is not a substitute for professional advice from a GP, registered dietitian or other health practitioner.

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