Healthier Democracy Program of the Evergreen Leaders Project
Healthier Democracy Programof the Evergreen Leaders Project 
We need more stretch breaks in meetings and public hearings!

Making Meetings Healthier: no more sitting marathons! 

We have seen many elected and other leaders grapple with huge decisions in long meetings at the end of already long work days, and these decisions are not their best.  “Sitting marathons”  are not only unhealthy: they create a level of frustration that may be an underlying contributor to the tension that often builds up when meetings go on too long.   


If one's body is tight and miserable from being locked into one position too long, that could affect one's mental and emotional state. 


Plato said: "A healthy body creates a healthy mind." Do immobilized bodies-specially after several hours-foster optimal decision-making and civic engagement? 


Would our local, state, provincial and national government meetings be less tense and irritable-and more civil-if the environment included healthy meeting practices for everyone in the room?  


Can our environment and our schedule affect our health? 


Elected leaders take an oath of office to protect the health, safety and welfare of their constituents.


Yet, take a look at their environments in this story............ 


Recently, we watched a local city council struggle with tough decisions until after midnight in an atmosphere that was "less than kind" to their own well being (and citizens who attended).  Their voices became faint and they sounded weak and fatigued as their blood sugar seemed to drop. Tthere were no healthy snacks, in fact no snacks at all.  During the one short break, they were mobbed with questions by their consituents on their way to the rest rooms and back.


We have been present in many public hearings that went on past midnight.  One city councilmember apologized to us, after they stood outside, after the meeting:  "We did not vote thoughtfully. But now that we are out in the fresh air, we realized that we could have done a better job if we were not so exhausted. We would have voted differently."


His fellow councilmembers nodded and sadly walked to their cars. After wiping the night dew off their windsheilds, they drove home for a short night's rest before an early start for their commute to work the next day. 


This situation requires compassionate action.


Chained to chairs.  Scientific studies show that sitting longer than 20–30 minutes without getting up and changing positions can damage our health as much as smoking. Our local leaders often sit for well over two or three hours at a time (sometimes for over four hours without even a standup stretch break) as do audience members. 


Is it worth exploring alternatives to 'marathon sitting' in meetings?


Evidence shows that decision-making becomes more focused on creative, innovative solutions after breaks that include healthy self-care. Some leaders, such as Dr. Dileep Bal, M.D., Public Health Institute, often have walking meetings.  


Some department heads now have their employees dancing to YouTube videos during breaks when the weather is too cold or hot to take walking breaks.  Some meeting facilitators make sure there are healthy snacks such as fruit, seeds and nuts, along with pure water, instead of old coffee in styrofoam cups, with chemical creamers and sugar or unhealthy artificial sweeteners. These practices help build staff morale while also teaching healthy lifestyle choices, the key to disease prevention and public health.  


City Council Flash Mob?


One city council in Minnesota launched a creative flash mob to get moving.

We might not want to go that far. We could simply have stretch breaks instead.  Still, it is fun to watch the two-minute clip about the Edina City Council fitness experiment and imagine if this happened in every council meeting. 


Write to us and share your healthy meeting experiments! 



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Evergreen Leaders Project

P.O. Box 5595

Novato, CA 94948



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Evergreen Leaders Project is a non-political, non-lobbying, non-partisan, non-profit project. We exist to make democracy a healthier, more constructive and civil process for all. 

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