Residents cycle worldwide without leaving home

Nancy Jones just finished an invigorating bike ride along the oceanfront from the comfort of her home at St. Teresa Place in Calgary.

Nancy and several other residents at the Covenant Care facility enjoyed pedalling together along Vancouver’s Seawall and through Stanley Park with the help of high-quality cycling videos.

“It’s almost as good as being there,” says Nancy, who enjoyed how the visual visit brought back memories of her previous travels to the West Coast.

“This is a new thing for me. I haven’t really cycled before, and I really like it. You use a lot of your large leg muscles. It’s good.”

The cycling program started as a five-week pilot project in the spring using the Motiview device, which has a library of videos exploring trails around the world. The videos are combined with music playlists that help make exercise more enjoyable for older adults, and the residents cycle along at their own pace with foot pedals. During the pilot project, the St. Teresa Place recreation team conducted a study to gauge how the cycling program affects residents who experience anxiety or depression.

“I knew there would be benefits, but the extent and the type of benefits, I was quite surprised,” says recreation therapist Ashley LaValley. “There’s been quite significant improvement in their mood from before they started the program to right after. It was quite a big change.”

The St. Teresa Place cycling group enjoys exploring Vancouver's Seawall.

Ashley says the cycling exercise provided a physical benefit, but the positive social and emotional benefits stood out the most. Residents noted an improvement in their mood, and staff observed how the videos sparked reminiscing and conversation and the accompanying soundtrack provided motivation.

“The music is great. Even if they don’t know a song, they’ll get really into it,” says Ashley. “They’ll clap their hands while they’re pedalling and start dancing. Even if they need a rest from pedalling, they’ll tap their toes, and it keeps them engaged the whole time.”

Resident Mary Jo Beveridge is among those who like to sing along.

“It makes me want to pedal. If I get tired and they have some real nice music on that’s a little peppy, it keeps me going.”

Mary Jo says the cycling group has improved her mood and provided physical benefits. She has ongoing issues from breaking her tail bone at age 14 and injuring her neck and back in a car accident.

“It helps me with my legs,” says Mary Jo. “Motiview has limbered me up a fair bit. And I love the fact that they put it to music and that you can see the scenery of different places.”

Nancy, who moved into St. Teresa Place in January, is proud of her progress. She says cycling makes her feel better and has improved her physical conditioning.

“My endurance is going up, that’s for sure,” she says. “You can make it as challenging as you want. You can increase the tension on the little cycling apparatus. I’ve worked my way up to harder.”

Nancy enjoys pedalling in her spot by the window.

Now that the pilot project and study have concluded, the cycling group continues with about 10 participants every week. Early on, attendance was limited by social distancing requirements. The recreation therapy team hopes to expand the program.

Ashley says the recreation team has found creative solutions for including anyone who wants to join.

“We had one resident who wasn’t able to pedal with her feet very well, so we set up a table in front of her and put the pedals on the table, and she started pedalling with her hands.”

The residents enjoy seeing new and familiar places both near and far, including overseas locations in Italy and Ireland and nearby trails in Waterton, Banff and Lake Louise. Ashley says you can also switch from music to ambient sounds, which is a hit when residents are cycling in natural environments.

“Lake Louise was really neat because there were horses that came on to the trail for a little bit. It’s a familiar place, so they enjoyed that one,” says Ashley. “They really like the nature videos because you can hear the birds, and some have water flowing through a creek alongside the path.”

Mary Jo enjoys singing along to the playlist as she pedals.

Even though Nancy didn’t have much experience with cycling before, she’s enjoying the benefits and plans to stick with it.

“It exceeded my expectations. It’s good to exercise as many muscles as you can or you’re going to lose them,” says Nancy. “I just feel better all over.”

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