Is virtual exercise here to stay for those with rheumatic disease?

3 minute read

Commencing and committing to a regular exercise regimen can be particularly challenging for those with a chronic rheumatic condition.

Commencing and committing to a regular exercise regimen can be particularly challenging for those with a chronic rheumatic condition.

There is often considerable fear (“Will my pain and symptoms get worse?”), uncertainty (“What type of exercise is best for me?”) and a genuine concern as to whether there will be any meaningful change.

Lockdowns last year yet again saw gyms and pools close and many types of group exercise unable to take place. Our patients, like many of us, were juggling the demands of home-schooling and working from home (or not working at all) in addition to trying to stay well and keep active.

While virtual workouts were in existence prior to the pandemic, their use has predictably increased, with the uptake of virtual programs increasing once again during the 2021 lockdowns.

Data from Mindbody (a technology platform that helps connect individuals with wellness options) showed a jump in individuals accessing virtual content since March of 2020. It reported 73% of consumers were using pre-recorded video versus 17% in 2019, and 85% were using livestream classes weekly versus 7% in 2019.

At BJC Health, we have been delivering live and guided group exercise classes to patients with rheumatic disease since April 2020. Unlike many facilities, which ceased their online offerings when restrictions eased, we made the commitment to continue our virtual Exercise Anywhere program as we stumbled on some interesting findings.

  • Those who joined the Exercise Anywhere program tended to attend classes more frequently than those attending group classes at our clinics.
  • Delivering sessions virtually allowed new patients to start moving at a slower pace while still receiving guidance and supervision, helping them feel safe.
  • Some patients reported feeling more comfortable in trying various exercise sessions from the comfort of their own home, knowing they could do part of a workout or even just watch!

In 2021 our efforts intensified both before and during the lockdown. We added Beginner Pilates classes. We added Beginner Yoga classes. We added Beginner Dance classes. We started (and continue) to run live exercise classes seven days a week and have added recorded exercise sessions to our membership offering. We want our patients to feel like they could take us “Anywhere”, to ensure they remained consistent and felt supported by our team and our community.

So although gyms, pools and our own clinic have since re-opened, we again observed some interesting trends after lockdown lifted.

  • Many patients want to blend or combine both virtual and face-to-face exercise classes.
  • Many more patients are open to the idea of virtual exercise, with many more having now had exposure to Zoom (and similar platforms).
  • Pilates and dance classes remain popular – a good reminder that our patients like to have fun too, no matter how they are moving.

We’ve committed to keeping our virtual exercise program running. And we’ve committed to keeping it targeted towards those with a rheumatic disease. Supervision, guidance and support with greater convenience.

To learn more, see our website:

And if your patients want to try our live classes and custom-made recordings, we’re offering a free 14-day trial to the first 75 people to sign up.

Sarah Comensoli is an accredited exercise physiologist based in Sydney and certified strength and conditioning coach. She works at BJC Health.

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