April 27, 2023 - Engaging in mind-body exercises (MBEs), such as Tai Chi and yoga, can have physical and mental health benefits particularly for older adults. Many MBEs require precise timing and coordination of complex body postures posing challenges for online instruction. Such challenges include difficulty viewing instructors as they demonstrate different movements and lack of feedback to participants.
With the shift of exercise programs to online platforms during the COVID-19 pandemic, McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada conducted a scoping review to examine the feasibility, usability, and acceptability of online MBE classes for older adults.
The study followed the scoping review methodology and adhered to the PRISMA reporting checklist. Screening of articles and data extraction was conducted independently by two reviewers.
Of 6711 studies retrieved, 18 studies were included (715 participants, mean age 66.9 years). Studies reported moderate to high retention and adherence rates (mean >75%). Older adults reported online MBE classes were easy to use and reported high satisfaction with the online format. The study also identified barriers (e.g., lack of space and privacy and unstable internet connection) and facilitators (e.g., convenience and technical support) to the online format. Opinions related to social connectedness were mixed.
The study, published by Journal of integrative and complementary medicine in March 2023, concluded that online MBE programs for older adults appear to be a feasible and acceptable alternative to in-person programs. It is important to consider the type of exercise (e.g., MBE), diverse teaching styles, and learner needs when designing online exercise classes.