You are currently viewing Exercise Program For Seniors: How to Strengthen Body and Mind with Vivo’s Eric Levitan

Exercise Program For Seniors: How to Strengthen Body and Mind with Vivo’s Eric Levitan

Episode #32November 3, 2020

Exercise is essential for healthy aging. Having a consistent exercise routine helps to reduce risk of mental health conditions, improves cognitive function, and helps our bodies to function optimally.

Knowing the “right” exercise for older adults is key. In today’s episode, I interview Eric Levitan, founder and CEO of Vivo, a digital fitness company focused on strength training for older adults. And Surprise! Also joining us in today’s interview is Eric’s 79 year old dad, Michael Levitan, who’s a college professor and has been exercising with Vivo for the past several months, and noticing remarkable changes.

I want to share that I have no affiliation with Vivo. I don’t get any financial incentive by sharing their program with you. So why am I using my podcast to talk about Vivo? As you know, older adults and caregivers are the hardest hit by COVID. Older adults have been locked down and scared, while caregivers have been overworked and overwhelmed.

Sharing programs like Vivo gives me comfort in knowing that there are safe and health based resources out there to help older adults and caregivers weather the storm of COVID and become stronger and healthier while doing it. And that’s what this podcast and my resources are all about- making sure you have the resources you need to make it through some of the hardest times in life.

Here’s a peak inside the episode:

  • [04:02] Eric Levitan shares his inspiration for creating an exercise program for older adults.
  • [09:09] We often hear of the importance of aerobic exercise, but strength-based exercise may prove more beneficial than aerobic exercise alone, Eric describes the benefits of strength-based exercise for older adults.
  • [13:01] Don’t just take Eric’s word for it. 79 year old, Michael Levitan shares his personal experience (and benefits) of strength-based exercise.
  • [20:14] With COVID-19 keeping many families physically separated, Eric and Michael talk about the heart-warming gifts of exercising together in two different cities.
  • [29:02] Vivo designs exercise programs with older adults in mind, including “dual-task” exercises, which help improve cognition.
  • [32:09] Do you know an older adult thinking about starting an exercise program? Don’t miss Eric’s recommendations.
  • [40:09] With exercise programs happening online, you may wonder how older adults are adjusting to using the internet and the computer for exercise (I know I was curious about this!). Learn what Vivo is doing to make sure older adults are set up for safety… and success.

Click here to listen!

About Eric and Michael Levitan

Eric Levitan is the founder and CEO of Vivo, a digital fitness company focused on strength training and older adults. Vivo is helping older adults maximize their quality of life and maintain their independence. After 25 years of working in technology and running software companies, Eric left corporate America behind to try to positively impact people’s lives and make a difference in the world, leading him to create Vivo. Eric discovered that as human beings age, we naturally lose muscle mass, which ends up being a primary contributor to a reduced quality of life and loss of independence, not to mention leading to numerous age-related maladies (falls, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, etc.). But consistently engaging in a strength training program has been shown to reverse age-related muscle loss and is the #1 factor in maintaining a high quality of life and independence as you age. This knowledge became his foundation for creating awareness and a safe, engaging, impactful program to guide older adults to a better life. Eric holds a BA in mathematics from Duke University and has been known to jam out from time to time in his band, The Liberators.

Michael Levitan is a 79 year old college professor who at the insistence of his son, Eric, began to engage in regular strength-based exercise, Michael explains: “For some strange reason, he wanted me to get in better health. As it was, I’d been playing tennis for most of my life, so it wasn’t as if I didn’t move around. While I may hate to admit this, Eric was right. My exercise levels had fallen precipitously by the wayside. Furthermore, my back had started to take an adversarial role without asking my permission. I guess it was payback for my years of tennis. Now with Vivo, I see changes I would not have believed.”

Learn more about Vivo at

Benefits of Strength-Based Training

  • Fewer FallsFalls are one of the most common injuries for older adults. Targeting balance and strength can help prevent injuries and ER visits.
  • Maintain Independence Longer

Strength-based training helps you to extend your ability to live independently. With greater strength, you’ll have less of a need for assistive devices like walkers or wheelchairs.

  • Better Health

Strength training helps maintain bone density,control blood sugar, improves cholesterol, reduces muscle loss, and relieves or lessens arthritis pain. Improving your overall health

  • Recover Faster

If you do have a procedure, strength-based training can help reduce recovery time and get you back out into your normal life faster.

  • Improved Cognition

Not only does strength training help your body, it also reduces stress and improves coping skills. But that’s not all, incorporating dual tasking in the workout helps improve cognitive function.

Download the free COVID-19 Wellness Guide for Older Adults

Free guide to help older adults thrive during COVID

Eric Levitan 0:00
So my dad and I are taking the same class and he's 79 and I'm 49. And so when we go to do an exercise like a plank, I may go on the floor and do a traditional plank on my elbows and my toes. And when we first started, my dad did a modified plank, which is a plank off of the back of the chair, where you can step back a few steps and kind of make a, you know, an angle with your body against the chair, and keep your core tight. And that's a much safer way to get started. Well, fast forward 16 weeks, and my dad is doing planks on the floor, on his elbows and toes just like I am. And it's a really amazing thing to watch. And I think speaks to the benefits of strength training and the speed at which, especially older adults make progress towards this. And I think it also speaks to the pride that I feel as I watch how my dad has improved. And some of those feelings I kind of, you know, stirred me as a son who's proud of his dad.

Dr. Regina Koepp 1:02
I'm Dr. Regina Koepp. I'm a board certified clinical psychologist and I specialize with older adults and family. I created the psychology of aging podcast to answer some of the most common questions I get about aging, questions about mental health and wellness, changes in the brain like with dementia, relationships and sex, caregiving, and even end of life. Like I say in my therapy groups, no topic is off topic, we just have to have a healthy way of talking about it. So if you're an older adult, or caring for one, you're in the right place. Let's get started.

Dr. Regina Koepp 1:43
A few weeks ago, I shared recommendations for preventing the risk of dementia. And one of the strategies that I talked about in that episode was exercise. In today's episode, I take the topic of exercise a whole lot deeper, and talk about a brand new program designed just for older adults called vivo. In today's episode, I'll be interviewing Eric Levitan, the founder and CEO of vivo, which is a digital fitness company focused on strength training for older adults. But here's the surprise. Also joining us in today's interview is Eric's 79 year old dad, Michael Levitan, who's a college professor and has been exercising with vivo for the past several months, and noticing remarkable changes.

Dr. Regina Koepp 2:35
I want to pause and take a moment to acknowledge that we, and especially older adults, have been living with the covid 19 pandemic for several months, and it's exhausting. It's been awful. Even though this road has been long and difficult, please do not give up hope. We have to keep wearing our masks engaging in physical distance. And we have to do everything we can to stay healthy and thriving. To help older adults do this, I created the COVID-19 Wellness guide for older adults. In this guide, you get lots of information about how to live your healthiest life in the midst of COVID, like the importance of scheduling a routine, like healthy snack option and even the benefits of physically distant exercise. So head on over to the show notes and download this free guide now. You won't be disappointed. Alright, let's jump into the interview with Eric Levitan and his dad, Michael Levitan, where they talk all about vivo, a digital fitness company focused on strength training for older adults. Let's jump right into the interview. Eric, I'm so excited for you to share with our listeners about vivo, can you share a little bit about what vivo is and how you came up with this idea?
Can you share a little bit about what vivo is and how you came up with this idea?

Eric Levitan 4:02
Sure. So Vivo is an online virtual strength training program for adults 55 and older, that we utilize small groups for so everything can be individualized for everybody who's in the session. So, if someone has arthritis in their shoulder and can't lift their arms above their head, we'll help modify that exercise for them. And if someone else is really strong and really fit and needs more of a challenge, we can modify the routine for them as well. And so, in a really crowded space of digital fitness today, where you're inundated with live stream classes and apps and video and YouTube, we really, I think, differentiate ourselves by having a live intimate high touch experience, where you're not only getting the benefit of a trainer who's working with you, you're getting the benefit of someone who knows what's going on with your specific situation and helps individualize all the exercises. Give you cues to keep you safe, yet keep you challenged. So that's really an overview of what we're doing with vivo, how it evolved. I used to be a tech executive at a software company. And I was fortunate enough to be a part of an exit, which allowed me some flexibility to really kind of figure out what I wanted to do next with my life. And part of that exploration, I went to basically the equivalent of a TED Talk, and I saw an older gentleman come in the room in a polo shirt much like this, it was kind of tightly fit on him. And he was older, you couldn't, you didn't really know how old he was. But he had bulging biceps and just looked really, really fit and healthy and, and young. And he introduced himself as a neurologist who ran a pain Center in Houston, Texas, and said that he was 75 years old. And honestly, he looked 55 at most. And he proceeded to give a presentation on the four main cornerstones of leading a healthy aging life. And for the most part, those were fairly intuitive, and you know, very general terms. It was nutrition, exercise, sleep and meditation. But he spent the bulk of his discussion and presentation talking about exercise, and not only about exercise, but specifically about strength training. And I learned an awful lot that day that I didn't know before, first and foremost is that we all lose muscle mass as we age. And it starts in our 30s. And it accelerates in our 60s and 70s. And it is really the most significant factor in losing our quality of life and losing our independence. And the fact that there's something you can do about it, you can engage in strength training, or what's commonly referred to as progressive resistance training. And you can rebuild that lost muscle mass and you can regain your quality of life. And I had never heard the science behind this before. He introduced me to a term called sarcopenia, which was a word that I feel like every human being on the planet should know, which ultimately is a condition you get from losing muscle mass and increase frailty as you age. And it really is the gatekeeper to so many other issues that occur as you get older. And it's funny, we talk about treatments and, and how we address things like type two diabetes and osteoporosis or rheumatoid arthritis. We're not talking about the thing that is actually the gatekeeper for all those conditions. And so as I learned about this, it really struck me as something extremely beneficial to know. So I talked to both my mom and my dad about this, who were at the time, going through what I felt like is a fairly traditional decline in quality of life as they got older, and asked them if they'd ever heard the word sarcopenia before and neither had and I asked them if they knew that they were losing muscle mass as they got older. And I think they intuitively knew that but I don't think could put into words that yes, we do this what's happening. And so the more people I started talking to about this, the more I realized, there needs to be a lot more awareness and education around this whole concept of sarcopenia. And the fact that we lose muscle mass as we age. And there's an awful lot of conversation about aerobic and cardiovascular health, and the importance of walking and riding a bike and doing all these fairly traditional things that you see in people - older adults doing in gyms, but there wasn't a lot of conversation around building strength and the importance of that. And so that really struck me and it struck a nerve. And I felt like this was an opportunity to actually make a difference in someone's life. And the more I started focusing on it, I realized what potential there really was for making a global impact, and helping to create awareness. And then also, in turn, creating a program that would guide someone through this transition, as it is something that's just a little bit foreign for most people, but it should be top of mind. And look, if there's one thing that you should do as you're getting older, it's strength training two to three times a week.

What are some of the benefits of strength training for older adults?

Dr. Regina Koepp 9:09
What are some of the benefits of strength training for older adults?

Dr. Regina Koepp 9:13
We all lose muscle mass as we age. And what I didn't know at the time, I think we all sort of intuitively know that right? It's harder to get up out of a chair, it's harder to get off of the floor. We don't walk as fast, we tend to shuffle our feet more, but I didn't know the kind of science behind that. And what I began to learn is you actually lose muscle mass as you age. It's about three to 5% per decade, starting in your 30s, believe it or not. And then as you get to your 60s, that rate accelerates and as you get to your 70s that rate accelerates again. And it actually is a kind of gatekeeper for a lot of other maladies that occur as you get older. falls are obviously a tremendous issue. And always have been loss of bone density, reduced blood sugar tolerance, a steady increase in body fat, all of these things are actually a result of losing muscle mass as you age. So when you talk to benefits, it's really speaking to all of those things. It reduces your risk of falls, it strengthens bones, it helps control blood sugar, it actually relieves pain from arthritis. It's kind of counterintuitive. Most people don't want to work out when they're in pain. But actually exercise and specifically string trading really addresses pain, it improves cholesterol, it helps. There's a term called prehabilitation, which is all about working out and getting stronger prior to surgery, such that it reduces your recovery time after surgery. And ultimately, what strength training does is it maintains your independence more than anything else. So, as you get older and lose the ability to do the things that keep you independent, that can be a really really debilitating experience to go through. And strength training will reverse all of that and keep you independent. So sorry for the long winded answer. But there's really a ton of benefits to strength training that really got me engaged in this initiative.

Dr. Regina Koepp 11:12
And what you said earlier about the your program, offering some direct feedback to individuals really struck me when you were talking about the Arthritis and pain. Because if you have shoulder pain due to arthritis, you want a coach to help you work through that in a healthy and safe way. And if you have individualized instruction, folks can do that safely. I think that's another thing that keeps older adults out of exercise is that they worriy that they'll further injure themselves.

Eric Levitan 11:46
I totally agree. And arthritis is a great one. So the most prevalent disease for older adults is type two diabetes and arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is actually second. And imagine someone who is trying to stay healthy, especially during this, this pandemic where we're all trying to stay at home as much as possible. And they're online watching a YouTube video or a series about fitness and getting stronger. And a fairly, you know, some of the three most important kind of parts to work as you get older and maintaining your strength. One of those is around your shoulders. And imagine you've got pain in your shoulder. And you're watching a video where someone's doing a shoulder press where they're, they're lifting weight above their arms, and that causes you a lot of pain, well, you're going to do one or two things, you're going to stop doing that. Or you're going to do it in a way that might injure you. And not having that interactive feedback, not having that coach or trainer who can really guide you through that and explain or modify, or regress an exercise or even progress in exercise if it's too easy for you. That's all really, really critical towards really kind of taking those steps for reversing this age related muscle loss, and really begin to improve function and independence.

Eric's Dad, Michael Levitan, shares about his experience of strength-based exercise

Dr. Regina Koepp 13:01
So, Michael, Eric's Dad, I'm so glad that you're with us today, too. What's it been like for you to see your son's development of this strength based program for older adults? And now I understand that you're also exercising together? Is that right?

Michael Levitan 13:21
That's correct. Yeah, actually, it began a few years ago, in terms of Eric getting on my case about exercising. I always played lots of tennis, I always did lots of bike riding, I did many activities. And slowly but surely, when my back started acting up, and I just wasn't as active as I normally would be. Eric kept saying that you have to do exercises. So I went to the Athletic Center, and I got a coach. And I was working with her for a couple of years. Then, when the pandemic came, I knew I wasn't about to continue with that. And at that time, Eric was beginning to start this program. And I thought, this is great because it renews my relationship with him. Instead of seeing him once every three months since he lives in Atlanta, and I live outside of Philly, we could see each other on a regular basis. And it would be interesting for us to exercise because, in the group, I'm the oldest one there, and to see what I can and cannot do, and at some point, when the coach said, well look at Michael, look at what he's doing. And Eric said something later on, I said, Eric, it's actually all you're doing. Because if I hadn't had the the experience of getting the Personal Training, I would never have been able to do some of the things that I'm doing now. And the improvement has been remarkable as far as I'm concerned.

Dr. Regina Koepp 14:53
Oh, tell me what, what are some of the improvements?

Michael Levitan 14:56
Well, just the fact of my strength training, I could never do push ups I could never do the pallof press, it was the one exercise when I did that, it just was... in that the pain was well... and I never wanted to do that. Now it's one of the exercises, I hate to say this, I enjoy the most, because I'm able to do it. And I can feel muscles that I never knew I had before. So it's improved a lot with my ability, my strength because I can feel that. And one thing that Eric mentioned about cholesterol I, just before the pandemic, I had a blood test, or I was supposed to and then eventually I got one because I needed that for a physical. The HDL, which is the good cholesterol, had hit a level I'd never seen before, it was about 10 points higher than it ever has been. And we want the good cholesterol to be fine. So I was extremely pleased that there was a payoff that I could measure, I mean, because after all, being the person who I am, I like to be able to measure things.

Eric Levitan 16:09
And Regina, for your listeners, a palloff press is actually a core stabilization exercise where you actually have resistance to the side, like a band, and you actually have to push that out in front of you and pull it back. And what that actually ends up doing is it works some core stabilization muscles that you don't typically work from more traditional, like crunches or planks or other things, it really hits the obliques, it really hits the glutes. And for a lot of people, they haven't done that exercise before. But strengthening your core is so critical. And kind of traditional strength trainings, you start from the inside out, you really work on the core and focus on that, as before you really focus on the extremities. And so that pallof press is, as my dad noted, it's a tough one because most people have not done it. And it is but it's using some very, very important muscles and muscle groups that really add a lot of value in terms of your overall stability in terms of your balance in terms of your ability to do additional things as you begin to make progress. So I also remember when we started, so the vivo sessions are actually small group up to six people. And it's a program where we're all doing the same thing. But kind of the cool thing about the program and the trainers that we have is they all have the ability and the understanding of how to modify an exercise for a given individual. And so my dad and I are taking the same class, and he's 79. And I'm 49. And so when we go to do an exercise like a plank, I may go on the floor and do a traditional plank on my elbows and my toes. And when we first started, my dad did a modified plank, which is a plank off of the back of the chair, where you can step back a few steps and kind of make, you know, an angle with your body against the chair and keep your core tight. And that's a much safer way to get started. Well, fast forward 16 weeks, and my dad is doing planks on the floor on his elbows and toes just like I am. And it's a really amazing thing to watch. And I think speaks to the benefits of strength training and the speed at which especially older adults make progress towards this. And I think it also speaks to the pride that I feel as I watch how my dad has improved. And some of those feelings I kind of, you know, stirred me as a son who's proud of his dad.

Dr. Regina Koepp 18:43
Just warms my heart.

Michael Levitan 18:45
It warms my heart, too, when Eric will ask me about something that I'm doing or... because he'll be wary of what I'm doing to make sure that I'm being safe. And not that the trainer isn't because the trainer certainly is. But to hear that he's actually concerned about me.

Dr. Regina Koepp 19:04
So how long have the two of you been doing this together now, exercising through vivo, which is the name of the exercise program.

Eric Levitan 19:13
So I think it's been about 18 weeks, because we just did your 16 week assessment, right, dad?

Michael Levitan 19:21
That is exactly right.

Eric Levitan 19:23
And it's been a couple weeks after that. And that's part of another really cool thing about this program in particular, but something that I would encourage everyone, especially as you begin a journey on strength training, potentially not something that you're doing already is measure yourself and where you're at now, because not only is it important, you know, if you can't measure it, you can't manage it. It's always important to really know where you are and set some goals for yourself. But it also serves as a fabulous motivator. Because you, as I noted earlier, you would not believe the rate at which, especially as we get older, we make progress in terms of our strength. It happens fast. That happens in four weeks, you'll see some real differences in how you feel. If you were to reassess yourself for four weeks, you'll definitely see some some increases, what we do in terms of our program of vivo, we baseline assess everyone, and then we reassess every eight weeks. And the changes that we see every eight weeks is really remarkable. And part of it, I think, is the program itself, and what we're doing and the trainers that we have, and the fact that we send everybody resistance bands, and we do some things to really make sure we're getting the challenge that we need to listen to outcomes. But part of it is just, if you do strength training, you'll get stronger, that's just kind of how it works. And so it's the kind of thing that really everyone needs to be aware of as they age is the importance of this, and the fact that it's not rocket science, you do it two to three times a week, for 45 minutes a session, and you will just be amazed at the kind of impact it can have in your life. So that was, sorry, along with that answer of I think we've been doing it for 18 weeks together.

Eric and Michael share about the benefits of exercising together during COVID in two different cities

Dr. Regina Koepp 20:14
What has it done for your relationship to exercise together during COVID in two different cities?

Eric Levitan 21:18
You want to start dad or you want me to start?

Michael Levitan 21:20
Go ahead, Eric.

Eric Levitan 21:23
So, for me, this has been the unexpected blessing of this whole situation. And I really did not anticipate this kind of outcome or this kind of side effect of what we were doing. So we weren't impressed with the program we were scheduled to launch in a couple of fitness Studios here in Atlanta on March 30. And as you can well imagine, that did not happen. And so we had a decision to make, which was kind of wait it out or see if we could do something online. And we pretty quickly looked at what we were doing and what the different components of the program were, and said, "Can we move this to an online kind of virtual but live experience over zoom or some other video conference technology?" And, at the time, we just wanted to... I knew it was going to be different. Training someone in person and training someone over zoom are not the same thing. You know, I'm sure most people have had some sort of zoom interaction at this point, a meeting is not the same, a conversation's not the same. There is just a lack of overall energy to anything that you're doing in a virtual environment. And so having a trainer lead a small group, personal training session over zoom, I knew is going to be a challenge. And it was going to be a skill to be developed like anything else. And so when we first started doing this online, I encouraged my trainers, let's just practice, get your friends, get your family, get your parents get your neighbors, and I'm going to do the same thing. So I talked to my dad and said, "Would you be willing to do this?" And part of the kicker was that we'll do it together. And I think that's what really motivated, at least for our situation, my dad. And I don't think that's unique. By the way, I think that would be something that would be appealing to a lot of parents of adult children. And I was really excited because since we're doing this virtually now I had the opportunity to really impact my father, and utilize this thing that I was so passionate about and learn so much about and he could see some benefits. But very quickly, as we started doing this together, and my dad said it earlier, it shifted from "Hey, will you do this exercise program" to "this is an opportunity for us to see each other twice a week." You know, normally we would talk on the phone once a week. And as he noted, we wouldn't see each other much, you know, more infrequently, especially because we live in different cities. And now because of COVID we don't see each other at all. So this became something that I began to look forward to. And it only.. the emotional impact only greatened as I saw the progress that he made, and it stirred something inside around being proud, being connected. And quite honestly, I think if you dig into the maybe physiology of what's happening, when you exercise, it releases endorphins. Endorphins make you feel good. When you do activities with other people that are releasing endorphins for everyone, I think there's some kind of shared sense of connection that happens. And I think that happens a lot with live music as kind of another analogy is that people who go to shows with you tend to have some, you know, some really positive feelings about and that started happening with this group that we had that we exercise with. And my dad actually got a couple of his professor friends to join our team and we have our own dedicated, dedicated group of people that all exercise together. And it was really incredible to be a part of this experience because not only was I watching my dad get healthier and stronger and more functionally able, but I was getting closer to him as a result of this experience, which I just didn't expect at all. And it's super cool to be a part of and I'm really grateful for, for his participation.

Dr. Regina Koepp 25:15
You have the smartest exercise group in the world. All the professors take this exercise program.

Eric Levitan 25:26
That's right, we should, we should brand it that way.

Dr. Regina Koepp 25:29
How about for you, Michael?

Michael Levitan 25:31
As Eric was talking, I was starting to get a lump in my throat because it felt so unnatural unexpected in terms of what would develop between the two of us. Because I knew on some level, at least my perception of how close we were or was we were not. But this has caused the change that neither of us have acted as expected, I certainly have not. And when you have a child and a child becomes an adult, you never know what the dynamics are going to be in terms of how you're going to relate with one another. whether you'll ever call whether one will wish the other one calls and doesn't or how it works. And this has been such an added benefit. Because the the fact that we know where we'll see one another, and we don't necessarily have conversations, because after all, we're getting out of breath, and we're getting hot and tired and all sorts of things. And we're trying to concentrate because one of the things I find valuable is that the exercise, the training isn't merely physical. I mean, there are cognitive aspects to it as well. And to try and ask me to name as many states as I can, while I'm doing push ups or doing something else, is a challenge without question, but those are the things that we started to do. And I like exercising my mind, obviously, I'm in the right profession to want to do that. And so between trying to get my mind to function and still do something physical instead of stopping, doing one and doing the other is not so easy. And coordinating movements with right hand and left hand that aren't parallel to each other is difficult. And I think enabling people who are concerned about their cognition, or what they actually can do, these exercises, I would believe, would be helpful. And then each time as one of the trainers will introduce something, and it'll seem impossible and slowly but surely as we do it, we recognize it has value, and that it's not merely a physical activity, but it's a mental one as well. So that's been extremely interesting as a sideline too I mean, aside from the connection that I feel with Eric.

Dr. Regina Koepp 28:03
Yeah, you're pointing to something so valuable, which is that exercise is indeed shown to lower risk for dementia disorders. In fact, and, and you're describing something so relevant in relation to that statistic. The other pieces the balancing piece, as well with you know, crossing over doing non parallel acts with both sides of your body is so great for balance, which will help with fall prevention, which is one of the number one reasons that older adults end up in, in hospital settings or in medical rehab facilities, breaking your hip. And then with all the strength based training and muscle development, you're less likely to have a broken hip, if you are exercising, when you do fall.And so it's just so exciting to hear all of these benefits, relational, cognitive, emotional...

What are dual-task exercises and how do they improve cognition?

Eric Levitan 29:02
And just to chime in Regina, what those cognitive exercises that we do that's referred to as dual task exercises, not to be confused with multitasking, which is not good. Dual tasking is actually or dual task exercises are really beneficial. And there's been a lot of research over the last few years about this with lots of studies coming out, really, you know, preaching the benefits of this in terms of preventing dementia and cognitive decline. And so that's very much what we try and build into this program as well. Because it's a fabulous opportunity while we're doing strength training, while we're doing some balance work, while we're even just doing a warm up to really start to activate. You know, not only the body but the mind and doing a cognitive exercise at the same time of a physical exercise, which is the definition of a dual test exercise has really been shown to be very, very good for cognition and for brain health. And so that's an important part of what we try and integrate and bring to the program. And it also makes it ridiculously silly and fun. Because when, as my dad was saying about naming states while you're doing push ups, we did an activity the other day where you had to balance on one leg, and the trainer would call you with a letter and you have to name as many words with that letter as you could, while you're turning your head from side to side. And, and there's nothing funnier than watching someone try and turn their head from side to side while standing on one foot while naming words that begin with the letter A. And so you know, it makes the sessions lighter and more fun and more engaging for everybody. And it's, it's got the benefit of you know, this cognitive development, it's occurring in this neuroplasticity. And it's just really cool stuff. And we've got some, some customers with mild cognitive impairment. And they are absolutely huge fans of what we're doing, and are committed to vivo because the impact it's had on their cognitive abilities, which just makes me so excited.

Dr. Regina Koepp 31:21
Well, now I have a question for you. This is very serious. What is a pirate's favorite state? Arrrrkansas.

Eric Levitan 31:33
I love it.

Dr. Regina Koepp 31:35
Oh, yeah, in 18 weeks from now, week 36, I'll expect a better answer.

Eric Levitan 31:41
There you go. It's showing our own cognitive decline.

Dr. Regina Koepp 31:46
Because that's the one that you have to know to pass a dementia screener. So, for older adults who are thinking about starting a program like vivo or starting vivo, what are some recommendations that you have for helping them get started? Earlier, you were saying kind of do an assessment and see where you're at. But what would you say is sort of your recommendation for how to help older adults get started?

Recommendations for older adults wanting to start an exercise program

Eric Levitan 32:09
So depending on how fit you are, there's probably a different workflow that I'd recommend, if you've been exercising a lot. And especially during the pandemic, you've been taking it upon yourself to do a lot of home based exercise programs, it's probably an easy transition to jump into vivo and you can go to our website, there's a "Get Started" page, and you can actually take a free class. And that's the best way just to learn and see what we're doing, how what we're doing is different from again, that kind of crowded landscape of other digital fitness programs, and really get an understanding of is this something that you think you can benefit from, and we certainly think you can, but I would say go ahead and jump into a free class. If you have not been exercising, it's always a good recommendation to talk to your doctor first. So there's actually when someone signs up, we send what's referred to as a PR cue or a physical activity readiness questionnaire. And as a part of that, we're getting some of your health history and making sure that it is safe for you to exercise. It's funny, I think from when I was putting this program together, I set in so many other older adult based exercise programs, and the level at which they're working was so not challenging that I think that the barriers were very low for entry, which is great. But at the same time, they didn't see the kind of results that I think you really need to be able to see in order to keep doing these programs. Otherwise, some movement's better than none. But it has to be challenging. So we really want to get you to that challenge. And therefore we want to make sure that we can ease you into this and you have to feel at least comfortable enough. And getting a sense from your doctor that this is an okay program for you to start. Obviously, heart conditions, blood pressure, cancer recovery, there's a number of things that may preclude someone from engaging in a program like this, and we just want to make sure that you're getting the expert advice of your doctor. That being said, almost anybody can start vivo right away. We have a really wide spectrum of customers from 85 to 53. Actually, I'm less than that, and I'm a customer. So 85 to 49 is our customer base right now. And there's every different kind of fitness level you can think of. When my dad started 18 weeks ago, I would not say he was a fit individual. And I think now he really is, but he was not at the time. And I think that speaks to... and he's 79 and our 84 year old clients. This is really, really benefiting them but they did not start out as fit individuals. And so the biggest message I would say is go online and sign up for a free class and just try it. And the free class is really something, it's a more intimate experience, we really just try and guide you. Because, look, I've spoken to enough older adults at this point, in putting together this program and executing it for the last five months, where I know there's a lot of fear based anxiety around doing something like this. Most people, especially as you get into the Upper 70s, early to mid 80s, they may have never done strength training ever in their life. And it's scary. It's, you know, people have preconceived notions in their brains as far as what strength training looks like, and it looks something like Arnold Schwarzenegger, and, you know, throwing tons and tons of weight up over your head and, and hurting yourself. And, and the fact is just not that, but there is a lot of fear based barriers that prevent people from trying this. And so what I would really encourage people to do is, if you feel like you're not in a very fit place, talk to your doctor first, make sure it's okay. But almost certainly it will be and just try a class and, and see how approachable this can be. Because it is something that we are skilled at doing of bringing people who are in places of not good fitness and not good strength... bringing them into the fold in a way that is very non threatening. And eases them into this so that they can begin to see some of the benefits.

Michael Levitan 36:30
Excuse me, if I may say one other thing, though, I thought, I'm pretty well aware of the kinds of foods I should be eating, and what I should be doing. And I'm dealing with myself as if I were who I used to be as opposed to who I am now. And part of what I've learned, because there is a nutritionist, part of the program, where when I met with her and we talked about needs for protein and so on, I was not aware of the extent I knew I wanted to eat food to maintain my weight, but it wasn't clear to me why I should change my diet in one direction or another. So, while I felt I knew pretty much what I thought was appropriate, there was clearly information that I did not have. So this was an additional benefit that I hadn't expected. Eric said you'll talk to a nutritionist and I said "Okay, all right, fine, thank you," without necessarily assuming that I was going to learn something. That's something really helpful. And it's true.

Dr. Regina Koepp 37:32
Now, Michael? What would you say to other older adults who don't have a son that has an exercise program for older adults? What would you say to other older adults who were maybe where you were a couple of years ago? Who didn't have an adult child so ambitious as Eric pushing them toward exercise? Or what would you recommend? Or what would you encourage them to be thinking of or doing for their bodies?

Michael Levitan 38:04
I'm hoping that if they can be exposed to some of what we're saying now that they will recognize the benefits that, okay, if you don't have an adult child, but you are recognizing the value of exercise, which we know on some level, and we tuck it away in our brain someplace and say, I'll do it tomorrow. There is a doing this exercise with friends, and not wanting to let them down by not being there. This is a social contract, so to speak. That I find really motivating. And whether it's walking with somebody or running with somebody or doing something with somebody, when you're not feeling in the mood, and they say, "Oh, come on," you decide to go and it's official. And that's part of what goes on here. I didn't know necessarily that Eric would get along with my friends. And now they're probably better friends than I am. That we've all gotten to know one another, never having really met. I mean certainly with Eric and with my friends. But there is a real social benefit in that regard. And doing it in a small group. I'm not part of 50 people, I'm having one person looking out for four or five of us constantly giving us feedback saying, "No, don't do it that way. Do it this way. You have had this, your elbow was bothering you, let's do this, instead of that" has been enormously helpful. And it recognizes for me the concern that the trainer has for your special needs, whatever they may be. So having a personal trainer, there's no question being somebody there to move your body and so on. But we're not in a society shape now to have somebody move my body necessarily and me to feel safe. So if I can have somebody watch what I'm doing and saying, :No, your arm is this way, instead of that way," it makes a real difference. And, and I'm getting that personal interaction, but it's the size of the class too.

How are older adults adjusting to using the internet for exercise?

Dr. Regina Koepp 40:16
What about the technological learning curve?

Eric Levitan 40:20
Regina, when I first moved vivo to be online, that was the first concern I had, which was, okay, how much of executing and operating this business is going to be really doing technical support for getting people up and going on zoom. And I think the pandemic made zoom so ubiquitous, that everyone was doing zoom, happy hours, everyone was doing, you know, zoom, get togethers with their families. And my dad is a bit of an outlier, of course, because he uses zoom everyday for his work. But I knew a lot of other older adults wouldn't have had that experience, yet, we really haven't had an issue with it. And because it is, I think, so ubiquitous, and because people really just need to click a link. And what we'll try and do is we'll have an initial meeting with any new customer, and will help make sure that they're well, you know, we'll call it like a tech onboarding, where we make sure that they can see us, we can see them, we can see the room and we can see their movement, they understand how to move the camera, so it can see up or down if they are getting down on the floor. And so we'll have a little bit of a check in. So it's not disruptive for the first time that any new person joins a group. So we try and build some of that in. But honestly, it really hasn't been an issue. And I had planned for it to be one. But I think because of COVID, zoom is just one of those tools that most people are comfortable with these days.

Dr. Regina Koepp 41:54
Yeah, my oldest couple that I work with in psychotherapy are 93 and 90, and they're using telehealth seamlessly.

Eric Levitan 42:06
Yeah, it's really, it's really remarkable that, you know, obviously, there are a ton of really, really terrible things that are happening in the world today. And some of what's going to come out of this experience, this pandemic will be moving society further forward in a way that everyone is more comfortable with technology, everyone is figuring out how to telecommute. And everyone's figuring out how to develop relationships remotely. And in this case, get a kick ass workout remotely.

Dr. Regina Koepp 42:40
Feels like Vivo has really created thoughtfully around safety and security for the older adult who's using it and mindfully modifying exercises to address a person's body needs and limitations or strength. And, and then kind of following along as you develop more and more strengths. Eric, where can people learn more about vivo?

Where can people learn more about Vivo, a strength-based program for older adults?

Eric Levitan 43:05
So you can go to our website, which is, that's t-e-a-m vivo. We certainly, when we first created the company, we recognize the importance of community and social engagement and having this help you feel a part of something bigger. And so when you join vivo, you're a part of team vivo. And then even on a more micro level, we've got this really kind of cool concept where you may have an adult child who wants to do this with you and some other siblings, or friends or neighbors or cousins, or aunts or uncles. And you can sign up as a team, which is what my dad and I did with a couple of his friends. You can also join as an individual and join an existing team. And what we're doing is trying to really address not only the physical and needs for developing strength that are obviously leaving us as we get older. But, as my dad noted, focusing on the cognition and then also focusing on social engagement. And you know, as well as anybody, that social isolation, loneliness, those are tremendous issues with older adults. And they actually manifest themselves as physical conditions as well. And so we believe, sorry for the long explanation of team vivo, but we really believe that this concept of being a part of a team is something that can help provide that sense of community as well. So you can go to, you can learn more about vivo, what we're doing and what we're made up of, in terms of the programming, and you can also go click on Get Started. And from there, you can click to sign up for a free class and just get the experience to help get you past some of those roadblocks or barriers that you may have in your mind.

Wrapping Up

Dr. Regina Koepp 44:55
If you're anything like me, you Googled even before this episode ended. With the holidays coming up and COVID on the upswing, vivo would be a fantastic gift for your older loved ones. It would be even better if you and your friends and families signed up as a team together. Let me just say, I actually have no affiliation with vivo. I don't get anything by talking about them. But here's the thing, older adults and caregivers are the hardest hit by COVID. Talking about programs like vivo gives me comfort in knowing that there are safe and health based resources out there to help older adults and caregivers weather the storm of COVID and become stronger and healthier while doing it. And that's what this podcast is all about.

Subscribe & Leave a Review

Dr. Regina Koepp 45:50
If you like this episode, be sure to subscribe and leave a review. Subscriptions and reviews help people to find this show. And just a reminder that the information shared in this episode is for educational purposes only, and does not take the place of licensed medical or mental health care. Special thanks to Jhazzmyn Joiner, the psychology of aging podcast intern. I'll see you next week, same time, same place. Bye for now.

Did you find value in this podcast episode?

Help others get access to the podcast by subscribing and leaving a review wherever you listen to podcasts.