New study examines relationship between seniors’ health and exercise during pandemic

7 fitness instructors tapped from West Van to help conduct trial

A University of British Columbia researcher is looking to further examine the relationship between exercise and physical and mental health in seniors and older adults.

While the positive effects of physical activity on overall health are already well-documented, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has created a unique opportunity to research in greater depth how different exercise programs, and the method by which those programs are delivered in a physically distant setting, can have an impact, according to Mark Beauchamp, a professor of exercise and health psychology in UBC’s School of Kinesiology.

“We’re interested in, whether in a social or group context, is there any additional benefits as opposed to exercising on one’s own,” said Beauchamp.

Beauchamp and other researchers are seeking 600 volunteers from across the country to participate in the 12-week study.

The study will investigate if different types of exercise programs can significantly improve the well-being and health of seniors aged 65 years or older in Canada.

Those who volunteer and are accepted to participate in the study will receive three sessions per week over a number of weeks. The sessions will be free for participants and delivered virtually.

Participants will be randomized into potentially two exercise programs – one being a physical-distant virtual group exercise program, or a personal exercise program.

Through a series of moderate-intensity exercise sessions taught by physical activity instructors, the study seeks to answer questions on how to best support physical and mental health going forward – when physical distancing is the new normal – by gauging the emotional state of participants following exercise, said Beauchamp.

“All of these have been in-person programs, and there have been very little evaluation into programs delivered online, and also in the context of the current pandemic,” said Beauchamp. “I just don’t think people would have been able to conceive of this sort of study before we were thrown into this pandemic.”

Beauchamp connected with Jill Lawlor, West Vancouver’s seniors’ services and community wellness manager, who tapped seven West Vancouver-based fitness instructors – all older adults and seniors themselves – to lead the virtual classes for the study.

“It definitely has a very, very strong West Vancouver feel to this,” said Beauchamp.

While health officials all over the world contend with the current novel coronavirus, results from the study could help inform best practices when it comes to delivering exercise programs in the future as people become more compelled to exercise from the comfort – and safety – of home.

“If we can derive really worthwhile, evidence-informed programs that are tested in the context of experiencing the current pandemic, it’ll help us be better prepared,” said Beauchamp. “It provides a means of getting programs that could potentially really support older adults right now.”

To find out more about the study, or to volunteer to participate, visit scopetrial2020.ca.

© North Shore News

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