Embracing our Community
Embracing Our Community

Older Adult Exercise Programs Go Virtual

Cedars-Sinai Older Adult Exercise Programs Go Virtual

LEAP exercise and healthy living classes are now offered online

Shortly after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, more than 450 older adults learned their weekly exercise classes offered through the Cedars-Sinai Geriatrics Program were put on hold. But under the leadership of Allison Moser Mays, MD, MAS, the geriatrics program pivoted, creating a way for seniors to access several live classes from the comfort of their own home.

Supported by a three-year grant from the AARP Foundation, Leveraging Exercise to Age in Place (LEAP) classes bring older adults together for group workouts as part of a study that aims to help prevent falls and physical inactivity while combating social isolation.

Now offered through Zoom, participants can take part in one of three courses, including Tai Chi for Arthritis, Arthritis Exercise and a Heathier Living workshop. Each course is led by a certified exercise instructor, and participants complete surveys on the impact of the programming on their social connections, falls history and health. The new format has proved especially popular.

"Our participants are thrilled to stay fit and engage with others during this unprecedented time," said Mays, a geriatrician at Cedars-Sinai who leads the LEAP effort. "Our programs aim to better understand what types of programming improve the social connectedness and decrease the falls risk of older adults. The transition to virtual programs allows us a unique opportunity to compare the benefits of our in-person classes to those that are offered virtually."

In order to ensure older adults could readily, and easily, participate in online classes, the geriatrics program created the role of a health coach—someone who connects with interested participants, ensures they have access to class details, instructions and consent forms, and also offers tech support services to ensure the participant is ready to go for the first class.

"This important role takes the technical burden off of the patient and equips them with a built-in support person to walk them through every step," said Mays.

Class instructors use a specialized webcam that rotates using a handheld remote and also teaches participants how to adjust their screens in order to monitor and ensure their safety.

As one woman expressed, "I am so glad you are offering this! Since the quarantine, I haven't done any type of exercise and can feel my body deteriorating. The only activity I get is chasing the squirrels away from the pomegranate tree."

Currently in year three of the grant cycle with the AARP Foundation, LEAP's new Zoom format has been approved to run through March 2021