Community exercise classes reduce loneliness, social isolation among older adults
Adults aged 50 years or older reported lower levels of social isolation and loneliness after 6 months of participation in a community-based exercise program, according to study results published in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
“We previously did not have actionable evidence-based interventions for loneliness and social isolation, and this builds evidence on the social benefits of group exercise,” Allison Moser Mays, MD, MAS, of the geriatric medicine program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and division of internal medicine in the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, told Healio Psychiatry.
Moser Mays and colleagues enrolled 382 participants with a mean age of 76.8 years in the Leveraging Exercise to Age in Place (LEAP) study. Participants selected either an arthritis exercise, tai chi for arthritis, EnhanceFitness or a healthier living workshop program. Participants had to attend at least one session to be included in the study. The investigators used the Duke Social Support Index (DSSI) to measure social isolation and the UCLA three-item Loneliness Scale to measure loneliness.
DSSI scores improved at 6 weeks and 6 months in an analysis adjusted for gender, race and ethnicity, income, participant-rated health and household size. UCLA three-item Loneliness Scale scores did not change at 6 weeks, which the researchers noted may have been because “loneliness requires more time to change than social connectedness, given its subjective and personal nature.” The score decreased by 6.9% after 6 months in an analysis adjusted for age, gender, race and ethnicity, living alone, number of chronic conditions, income and participant-rated health. Of the initial participants, 59 continued with virtual workouts that began in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a press release. The release said Mays presented data at the Gerontological Society of America’s online meeting that showed “there has not been a statistically significant change in loneliness or social isolation one month after stay-at-home orders began.”
“While the change on each scale was small, these may still represent meaningful changes in the experience of loneliness and social isolation in older adults,” the researchers wrote.
Cedars-Sinai (Nov. 12, 2020). Study: Exercise classes reduce loneliness, social isolation in seniors. Accessed Nov. 30, 2020. Available at: https://www.newswise.com/coronavirus/study-exercise-classes-reduce-loneliness-social-isolation-in-seniors/?article_id=741666&sc=sphr&xy=10007438.