The work that group exercise instructors and health coaches perform not only boosts physical health but, for older adults, may also support mental well-being by reducing feelings of aloneness. Older adults who participated in group exercise felt less loneliness and social isolation, according to a study completed before the pandemic and published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry (2020; doi:10.1016/j.jagp.2020.10.006).

“These classes had already been shown to reduce the risk of falls in seniors, and this was the first demonstration that they also reduce social isolation, to the best of our knowledge,” said principal study author Allison Moser Mays, MD, a geriatrician at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Los Angeles. In addition to attending classes, subjects met with a health coach. Researchers believe that guidance from a health coach is key to ensuring people stay on track.

Participants ages 52–104 worked with a health coach to choose one of four classes: Arthritis Exercise, EnhanceFitness, Tai Chi for Arthritis or Chronic Disease Self-Management. Individuals had to attend at least one session to be included in the study. Some participants have continued with virtual workouts since the pandemic’s onset. No statistically significant change in loneliness or social isolation was reported 1 month after stay-at-home orders began.

See also: Muscular Strength and Mental Well-Being