With Gov. Doug Ducey issuing a state stay-at-home order at the end of March to combat the coronavirus, many Valley seniors are moving their regular exercise classes to their living room, virtually.
“They miss their classes. So, being able to provide that for them I think was really important and key during this time,” said SilverSneakers trainer Sharlyn Green.
SilverSneakers is a Tivity Health program that provides a range of exercise classes to seniors with a Medicare Advantage membership. The group has 15 million members nationwide and 38,000 in the Valley.
Normally, these classes are held at places gyms, fitness centers and swimming pools. Ms. Green, a Buckeye resident, said she taught classes in West Valley cities such as Buckeye, Peoria and Goodyear, with typical class sizes ranging from 15 to 35.
With the stay-at-home order in effect, these facilities have been forced to close. Additionally, following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Arizona Department of Health Services has issued guidance to cancel or postpone gathering of 10 or more people. So, SilverSneakers has continued to provide classes to its members while social distancing.
This month, group has started hosting live video classes where trainers film themselves leading the class in their living rooms, streaming it to SilverSneakers members who can follow along in their own living rooms. Ms. Green teaches live videos twice a week, teaching four classes, sometimes more.
Over the past few years, SilverSneakers has also been accumulating a library of on-demand exercise videos, which have found a new popularity now that people are staying at home. SilverSneakers on-demand traffic in March 2020 in the Phoenix area increased by more than 650% over March 2019 numbers, in line with the group’s national on-demand traffic. The Valley also saw new users for the on-demand videos increase 500% from March through mid-April 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.
“Today’s seniors and our members, you know, they’re strong. And they’re a resilient group,” Ms. Green said. “And I think that it’s really important for them to stay strong and maintain their good health as they do this. And they’re seeing the benefits.”
The at-home exercises have options for members who have equipment like weights and resistance tubes at home and those who don’t. SilverSneakers also has a mobile app that can assist members with their at-home exercises.
The live and on-demand classes can be viewed by logging on to the member section of SilverSneakers.com. For non-members, the group is also streaming live classes twice a week on its Facebook page. Ms. Green said these videos had been viewed 1.4 million times and shared more than 9,000 times, with viewers from around the globe.
In addition to the physical benefits of the exercise classes, Ms. Green said that her members enjoy the community the classes provide.
“We still hope to provide that connection for our members in a little different way,” she said. “…I even had a member contact me and say, ‘Can I get my instructor on, because we all miss her and it would make us feel better.’ They really love their instructors. But they’re so happy that we’re providing this during this time.”
Ms. Green pointed out that the physical benefits of SilverSneakers classes include keeping muscles strong, keeping bone density up, improving mobility and flexibility and improving cardiovascular health. But the benefits of exercising, even when stuck at home, can improve mental and cognitive health in addition to physical health.
“The benefits of exercise go way beyond the physical,” Ms. Green said.
A University of Arizona study conducted by Nobuko Hongu, a professor and nutrition and physical activity extension specialist, in UofA’s Department of Nutritional Sciences; Patrick J. Gallaway, a research assistant in the Department of Nutritional Sciences; and Mieko Shimada, a professor in the Chiba Prefectural University of Health Science listed many benefits exercise can have for seniors.
These included physical benefits, like increasing the chance of living longer, reducing the risk of Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease and Metabolic Syndrome and promoting independent living and delaying disability by keeping bones, joints and muscles healthy.
The study also said exercise improves a senior’s brain health. The study sited the Alzheimer’s Association, which stated regular physical activity may directly benefit brain cells by increasing blood and oxygen flow to the brain and may lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and some other types of dementia.
In addition to improving cognitive ability, exercise brings emotional benefits as well.
“It also helps your emotional state. It can help bring your stress level down. I know that everybody’s stress level is a little up right now. So, exercising has a definite benefit (toward) lowering your stress level,” Ms. Green said, adding that she teaches a yoga class that revolves largely around mindfulness and breathing.
A study by Arizona State University Kinesiology professor Daniel Landers found there is evidence that “exercise is related to positive mental health as indicated by relief in symptoms of depression and anxiety.”
The study said exercise can also help give a person a positive mood, increased self-esteem and restful sleep.
Visit SilverSneakers.com to check eligibility. For those who might not be eligible, Silver&Fit and Renew Active are similar programs with locations around the Valley, including at Maricopa County Community Colleges.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here