I love going to conferences. If you’re not in the clinic, hospital, or operating room, it means that you’re not dealing with patient care of administrative issues. Conferences are sort of like a mini-break from your daily routine even though you are still involved with something in your specialty. Furthermore, it is an opportunity to catch up with old colleagues, learn about the exciting new developments in your field, and interact with thought leaders in your field. I’d say that overall they are a great way to vacation without feeling guilty about not working your day job.
Conferences aren’t healthy for you.
Most of us spend our days at meetings sitting. I’ve been to intense medical courses that have lectures from 7am until 10:45pm! And we all know that inactivity increases cardiac risk factors. Not only are you sitting, you might even be taking notes and focusing on the lectures. As far as I can recall, having to pay attention is mentally taxing.
We network with our colleagues during refreshment breaks and speaking to vendors. I am always aware of my plans for the day, and stay relatively busy meeting with colleagues. This is also mentally taxing. Most of us have our clinic and hospital routines in motor memory, and can operate on autopilot most of the day. Not so in a meeting situation. We are out of our routine, and no matter how savvy or upbeat you are, you will be mentally and physically tired at the end of a meeting day.
We eat more during conferences.
I rarely have time to eat during my work days. If I am lucky, I can get a granola bar or yogurt in between patients. Combine a low caloric consumption with dashing around dealing with patient issues and you have an automatic weight loss system. Not so at meetings and conferences.
Food is plentiful at meetings. There are at least three full meals each day—sometimes more if there are snacks during breaks. This food is often catered, tasty but probably unhealthy. It is just sitting in front of you. Sometimes the food is even free for the taking. I probably consume at least twice the number of calories during meetings than during a typical workday.
We often punish at the end of a conference day with fancy dinners. Think steak soaked in butter, or seafood soaked in butter. Have a few beers or glasses of wine to wash down the fat. There is serious caloric intake at these dinners, especially if you are fortunate enough to attend a sponsored dinner.
We don’t exercise as much during conferences.
Since we are out of our rhythm, sitting all day, and eating big meals, we don’t necessarily find the time to exercise. Psychologically, we “aren’t working” during meetings, so it is considered a mini-vacation. Mental and physical fatigue from sitting through hours of lectures further discourage us from hitting the gym or exercising.
You can make a change and alter your conference routine.
It’s not too late to make lifestyle modifications! The next time you plan to attend a conference, allocate some time to exercise! It could be at the hotel gym, on a jogging path around your conference center, or even just a simple exercise video in your room.
Control your caloric intake! Just because you can financially afford the $15 slice of coconut cake doesn’t mean that your gut can! Remember that your waist will grow along with the size of your wallet.
Don’t forget to have a good time at your meetings! Consider it a mini-vacation, but make sure that you maintain some of your routine to keep your body healthy!
(Photo courtesy of Sebastiaan ter Burg)