Physical activity is an important part of staying healthy and boosting immunity, but doing so during the COVID-19 pandemic is a challenge — especially for older adults and high-risk groups.
In response, the team at the Brock-Niagara Centre for Health and Well-Being is using social media and exploring online tools to keep members engaged and active.
“The Brock-Niagara Centre for Health and Well-Being is a social hub for many of our members,” says Associate Professor of Kinesiology and Director of the SeniorFit program Kimberley Gammage. “It’s important to us that our community doesn’t feel isolated and we are taking steps to contribute to the social, mental and physical health of our members.”
To assist members with their health and fitness goals, Centre staff are posting daily Home Workouts which do not require exercise equipment on their public Facebook page and have launched a new Brock webpage to provide information and important safety tips.
“We’re committed to providing our members with continual comprehensive service,” says Department of Health Sciences Chair and Centre Director Deborah O’Leary. “Our team is dedicated to providing a virtual, communal environment so that our members do not feel socially isolated and continue to partake in a healthy lifestyle.”
The Centre membership is comprised of older adults, individuals with cardiovascular disease or risk factors and individuals with spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease or amputations.
“Several of our members live alone or are in high-risk groups that already face daily challenges and barriers,” Gammage says. “By moving to an online platform, we hope the community will see we are still here to help and care about their health and fitness goals.”
Each daily home workout posted on Facebook and the Brock webpage will have two options to allow individuals to make modifications based on their own unique needs, including seated exercises.
“Despite our best efforts, the reality is some of our members with disability may not be independent enough to take advantage of the online exercise options,” explains Kinesiology Professor and Director of Power Cord, David Ditor. “For members in our wheelchair accessible exercise program, a phone call every now and then during this period can help them to fight off loneliness and isolation. We plan to reach out to our members and let them know we’re thinking about them.”
Regardless of one’s ability to participate in the at-home exercises, all members are invited to stay in touch and provide updates by commenting on the Facebook page or via email to Centre contacts.
“Even though we are practicing physical distancing, we want to hear how everyone is doing at home,” says Centre Manager Sarah Radcliffe. “We really want people to feel like that connection is still there.”
As an experiential educational partner, the Centre also has Brock Professional Kinesiology master’s students still completing placements who are finding new and innovative ways to keep offering class content online.
“When promoting health and wellness to these populations, it’s important to be able to adapt to changing circumstances,” Gammage says. “This is a great learning opportunity for students that things don’t always go as planned. Now, students are doing knowledge translation work to adapt classes they were offering into online booklets for members. One example, which we hope to post soon, is a golf training program.”
Another facet of the Brock community being engaged online are 30 Pelham residents, ranging in age from 59 to 91, who were a part of a 12-week functional exercise program at the Meridian Community Centre. Through a formal partnership with the Town of Pelham, FIT with Brock, a program of circuit classes had been running three times a week since January, and ended prematurely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the shut-down, Centre Co-ordinator Katherine Crockett has been reaching out via email to provide members with home workouts and online video resources.
“Katherine is doing an amazing job of continuing to engage the Pelham members with regards to what activities can be done safely at home,” says O’Leary. “It is so important to keep all our members engaged and staying active during this unprecedented time and we look forward to getting all of our programs running again when it is appropriate.”
The Centre team is currently looking into the feasibility of running virtual fitness classes in real-time so all members can continue their exercise and social interactions from home.