Using yoga-based exercise to improve the wellbeing of older adults

We partnered with remote wellbeing platform Breathe Happy to design and deliver a personalised, remote wellbeing program, leveraging computer vision and cutting-edge emotional AI testing tools.

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Senior woman in activewear watching online courses on laptop while exercising at home.

Background

A recent study found that yoga-based exercise improves health-related quality of life and wellbeing. The study included a randomized controlled trial with 60 participants (aged 18 years or older) who were randomly assigned to either an 8 week yoga program or a wait list control group. Participants in the intervention group experienced significant improvements in self-reported physical functioning, mental well being, vitality, social functioning, bodily pain intensity, and role limitations due to emotional problems. The findings suggest that yoga can be used as an effective tool for improving health related quality of life and wellbeing among people living with chronic conditions.

The global yoga market is expected to reach 66 billions dollars by 2027, growing at an annual rate of 9.6%. Online yoga classes are deemed to be a huge factor of this growth.

The opportunity

Online yoga classes can be challenging and fun, but they’re also different from physical studios or centres. Unlike when you have instructors who are there to ensure your postures are right, online class don’t always offer that kind of support for students in their practice sessions. Many people believe in and buy into the power of online yoga, but are restricted from practising because of this lack of support.

In 2020, we were funded by Innovate UK to deliver a collaborative project with remote wellbeing platform, Breathe Happy. Founded by Shiti Rastogi Manghani and Radhika Dimri in 2019, Breathe Happy leverages computer vision and machine learning to create real-time insights for remote yoga teachers to train students and guide them on the correct postures in real-time.

The project

Together with Breathe Happy, we worked to design and deliver a personalised, remote wellbeing program (Move, Breathe and Connect), leveraging computer vision and cutting-edge emotional AI testing tools. The project’s overall aim was to build physical and emotional resilience and aid recovery in older adults impacted by COVID-19.

By digitizing human experiences, we felt that we could obtain an objective evaluation of what is needed to support healthy ageing. This project offered the potential for us to make a fundamental contribution to everyone working in the field of non-pharmacological treatments for the wellbeing of body and mind.

Our approach

We reached out to our VOICE® community, asking those aged 45 and over with access to the internet to take part in a series of online yoga classes. Their prior experience of yoga varied: some had no experience whatsoever, and some attended yoga classes regularly. We assessed participants’ motivations for attending, their expectations of the class, how well the online delivery worked, their perception of the instructor, their preference when it came to group size, session length, and frequency of sessions, among other key factors.

This kind of research is invaluable to the team at Breathe Happy, helping them to engage older adults in online yoga and fulfil unmet needs.