Live fitness classes can improve pain, joint stiffness, and fatigue


Distance learning classes like yoga, Pilates and tai chi are beneficial for people with musculoskeletal conditions like osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoporosis, research shows presented at the American College of Rheumatology 2021 Annual Meeting.

After attending low-intensity 60-minute Zoom fitness classes every two weeks in six-week increments, participants improved physically and became more socially active, according to researchers at the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS ) from New York.

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6 week remote program Improved mobility, pain, stiffness, other symptoms

Of the 355 people assessed (out of a total of 6,779 participants), 161 reported a musculoskeletal condition. Affecting joints, bones or muscles, musculoskeletal conditions include inflammatory arthritis and other chronic conditions associated with pain, functional limitations and disability.

The participants were predominantly women over 60 and Caucasian. This group reported that with any level of participation in each six-week virtual workout, they achieved:

  • 5 percent reported a decrease in overall pain
  • 5 percent decrease in joint stiffness
  • 7% reduction in pain when walking
  • 8 percent reduction in fatigue

Those who said they attended twice a week or more for six weeks reported even greater improvement:

  • 11% decrease in pain intensity
  • 12% decrease in stiffness
  • 9% decrease in fatigue and decrease in pain interference with all aspects of daily life, including general activity levels, mood, ability to walk, normal work, relationships with others, sleep and the pleasure of living in general

Live exercise classes vs. online on-demand classes

Live remote exercise programs provide a two-way interactive experience: participants connect to a remote video conference or meeting with a computer, smartphone or tablet, usually from their own homes. During the course, people may have the opportunity to talk with others and get personal feedback from the instructor, who can see and hear them through the device’s camera and microphone.

HSS offered a live remote course that was to be taken at a scheduled time, but allowed for direct interaction with the instructor and other students. Unlike pre-recorded online courses (often free) which allow you to participate whenever you want, live lessons allow for professional interaction and supervision. Online or on-demand fitness classes are similar to “one-way” classes offered by videotape or DVD recording.

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Low impact virtual programs also offer socialization and support

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), loneliness affects more than a third of adults 45 and older and almost a quarter of adults 65 and older. (Obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic has made human relationships much more difficult.) There are many health risks associated with social isolation, including dementia, mental health issues, and premature death.

A study published in June 2017 in Quality in aging and the elderly found a strong link between social isolation and loneliness and chronic musculoskeletal disease. To work on this, the HSS research team incorporated a social component into their exercise programs. “We made sure our classes were structured to increase interactions with others. We fostered a dialogue before the start of the course so that people could talk and catch up. They said it helped promote social connections, ”says Titilayo Ologhobo, MPH, director of results and data analysis at HSS and author of the new study.

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“Flexibility and convenience” and other factors made fitness classes feasible.

The team did not collect data comparing the virtual and in-person lessons, but the feedback they received was that people enjoyed the virtual program due to the flexibility of time and the convenience of training. at home. Physical accessibility, travel conditions, and pain associated with movement are other barriers to exercise known to strain people with arthritis and other conditions. Research published in Journal of Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation found that people with osteoarthritis encountered the following barriers to exercising regularly during in-person classes.

  • Time Many people with osteoarthritis are sensitive to cold and humidity, and don’t feel well enough to exercise in cold weather or safe enough to go out in freezing, wet weather.
  • Accessibility of exercise facilities Actual space, courtyards, or accessibility may not be user-friendly for people with arthritis. Stairs, for example, can be decisive.
  • Transport Some people with arthritis have difficulty driving and depend on other people for their trips because there is no other means of transportation.
  • Cost Gym memberships can be expensive. Virtual programs, however, are either free or at least more affordable.
  • Self-image People can feel uncomfortable in a gym due to poor body confidence. They may be embarrassed by their appearance or by their skill level. A virtual classroom allows them to control how much they want to expose themselves.

Where to find low impact distance fitness classes

Ologhobo emphasizes that you should not start a new exercise program until you have consulted your health care provider. Your doctor can help you assess whether a particular program is suitable for your level of fitness and health. If you have moderate or severe illness, you may want to see a physiotherapist who can assess the safety and effectiveness of a given program for you and suggest specific resources. Here are some virtual sites that offer gentle exercises. Consider a trial class or trial membership before committing financially. If none of these solutions work for you, ask your health care provider or physiotherapist for suggestions.

Rheumatologists and other doctors, take note

The takeaway for rheumatologists and others caring for people with painful musculoskeletal disorders seems to be to encourage participation in these types of classes. “Amid the uncertainties caused by the pandemic, the move to virtual programs has allowed seniors with musculoskeletal disorders to have continued access to effective community programs and to reduce the negative impact of isolation. Implementing online virtual exercise programs can be effective in assessing the needs of your target audience, considering potential barriers to program participation, and tailoring virtual programs to meet the specific needs of your audience. patients, ”Ologhobo said in a press release.

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