If the coronavirus pandemic had you turning to Zoom for at-home exercises instead of the gym, then we have some good news for you. Remote exercise classes are incredibly beneficial to your health and may help relieve pain, stiffness, and fatigue according to a new study.
Those who experience musculoskeletal conditions, like osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis saw a decrease in pain when regularly taking part in online exercise classes, according to research presented at the American College of Rheumatology 2021 annual meeting. The Cleveland Clinic says that musculoskeletal conditions affect the bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and soft tissues of your body.
According to the 2020 American Health Ranking System, 26% of adults are physically inactive–specifically adults over 65 years old. The study’s researchers note that inactivity is particularly harmful to those who experience musculoskeletal conditions, which affects nearly 75% of adults over 65, making them more prone to experiencing pain, weak muscles, and stiff joints, according to the study.
In March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the lives of so many, the Hospital for Special Surgery pivoted its 60-minute exercise classes to remote workouts. Low-intensity classes like Pilates, yoga, and Tai Chi were all conducted via Zoom and were designed to increase activity, social interaction, and program access for those confined to their homes. Additionally, the HSS increased the frequency of the classes and took the time to allow for participants to socialize prior to class.
“The pandemic disrupted many aspects of daily living, such as engaging in physical activity and interacting with friends and family,” Titilayo Ologhobo, M.P.H., Director of Outcomes and Data Analytics at HSS and the study’s author said in a press release. “Unfortunately, older adults were the most vulnerable to greater health risks during this period, leading to potential worsening of musculoskeletal conditions and emotional distress. Healthcare delivery is constantly changing, but considering the impacts of the lockdown, there was a need to quickly adapt to virtual programming, especially for vulnerable older adults.”
To determine the effectiveness of these virtual sessions, researchers measured the program’s success with a pre and post-workout online survey for participants. The survey assessed their socio-demographics and self-reported health outcomes on pain intensity, pain interference, physical function, stiffness, fatigue, physical activity, and self-efficacy.
“We need to know if virtual exercise classes are effective for older adults because it provides continued access to these services, keeps them physically active from the comfort of their homes, and reduces isolation,” Ologhobo said in the press release.
Nearly 7,000 members tuned into the workout classes, 355 of which filled out the surveys. Of those that filled out the surveys, 161 self-reported having a musculoskeletal condition, and reported a 5% decrease in pain intensity, a 7% decrease in pain interference with their walking ability, an 8% decrease in fatigue, and a 5% decrease in joint stiffness with every six-week session—a step in the right direction!
Thirty-three people who participated even more frequently (twice a week for the six-week sessions) reported improved pain, fatigue, stiffness, and increased ability to perform daily activities. The 33 noted an 11% decrease in pain intensity, a 12% decrease in stiffness, a 9% decrease in fatigue, and a 9% decrease in pain interference with daily activities (which include general activity levels, mood, walking ability, normal work, relations with others, sleep, and enjoyment of life).
Researchers ultimately found that those who have musculoskeletal conditions can include safe, low-intensity virtual exercises in their daily routine to improve their physical and mental health (by getting some much-needed social interaction). Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers found that shifting to a virtual platform allowed for a larger reach, improved overall feelings of loneliness or isolation, and increased access to health programs.
So if you're on the fence about logging into that Zoom Tai Chi or Obé Yoga Class, it's probably worth the hour. Even if you don't experience joint pain, that 60-minute workout can improve your mood—truly!
Before starting any exercise routine, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider to find the right fit for you. You can find low-impact, virtual sessions through websites like HSS, Obe Fitness, Tai Chi Foundation, Yoga Works, and more.