Matthieu’s research interests include physical activity, physical activity promotion, and positive body image across diverse populations. Matthieu graduated from the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute at the University of Toronto. Matthieu is currently completing his PhD at Brock University exploring multidimensional indicators of positive body image across various social identities.
Exploring online fitness programming among older adults: A scoping review
Matthieu Dagenais, Brock University, Canada
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many institutions, workplace offices, and businesses including fitness facilities had to shut down. Given the closures of exercise facilities it is important to understand alternatives to in-person exercise. However, to date, research has primarily focused on the use of print media to deliver non-face-to-face exercise to older adults. The use of new technology (e.g., videoconferencing, social media) by the general public has increased rapidly. Online fitness programming using videoconferencing may be a unique opportunity to promote physical activity while at home. However, little is known about online fitness programming among older adults.
We conducted a scoping review using the Arksey and O’Malley (2005) framework. We answered the following research question: “What is the nature and extent of evidence pertaining to the use of online fitness programming among older adults?” We searched the following databases: MEDLINE, CINAHL, Cochrane, PsycINFO, and SPORTDiscus, as well as Google, websites, reference lists, existing networks, reports and position papers from relevant organizations and conferences published from January 2005 to September 2020. Citations yielded from the search strategy (i.e., 65 years of age and older, online fitness) were imported into Covidence® referencing software. Our search strategy yielded 5742 titles and abstracts. Two reviewers independently piloted and then screened all citations using the study selection checklist, of which 11 articles met our inclusion criteria. Next, two reviewers independently piloted and then extracted data from included articles. We described characteristics of included studies using frequencies and medians and collated results from text data using content analytical techniques. We specifically reported on the nature and extent of articles that referred to: a) the use of online fitness programing among older adults; b) experiences among older adults; and c) current gaps in the literature.
The majority (82%) of articles were published from 2016-2020. A total sample of 701 older adults were included with an age range of 65-87 years of age. Of the included articles that reported on sex and/or gender (n = 590), 417 (70%) were women. Online fitness programming articles were primarily conducted in the USA (36%) or the Netherlands (36%). Among the included articles, strength, aerobic, balance, flexibility, and yoga-based exercise classes were commonly utilized using asynchronous (n = 5), synchronous (n = 2), and both asynchronous and synchronous (n = 3) delivery. Studies primarily assessed the feasibility of, acceptance of, and adherence to online programs among older adults. A randomized controlled trial was the most common study design (40%).
Few studies have examined online fitness programming among older adults, and those that have are limited in terms of geography and outcomes assessed. Given the increasing use of technology and potential benefits of offering fitness programs to older adults online, areas to address in future research include examining the effectiveness of online fitness programming for enhancing physical fitness and identifying the perceptions and experiences of online fitness programming among older adults.