Are there guidelines or resources to develop virtual exercise groups

Posted on June 16, 2020 by Madalon Burnett


There are no specific resources or guidelines to help practitioners set up a virtual exercise group. There are several studies that have shown effective ways to implement a virtual exercise group. There are some resources for group leaders and for patients to help maintain an exercise or rehabilitation program virtually. 

I.   Evidence of Efficacy for Virtual Groups

  • A study prior to the COVID-19 pandemic outlines a method for delivering a virtual exercise program for COPD patients. This program used an application with functionality for a virtual peer group, a digital exercise diary, a follow-along exercise video, and visual rewards on the home screen wallpaper. Patients reported that this method was user friendly and that it motivated them to exercise more. (1)
  • A study also showed that a virtual exercise group was a safe, effective, and economical solution for cardiac rehabilitation. The group used a website to deliver patient education, facilitate one-on-one chats with experts, a peer support group, and group chats with an expert (2)
  • Being a part of a virtual exercise group motivated elderly patients to perform balance and strength exercises using an app called Active Lifestyle (3)

II.   Tips for Starting a New Group

  • In a blog by a exercise support group leader in Australia, there are suggestions for staying connected over COVID-19. These suggestions are more focussed towards groups that already exist, but could be adapted for new exercise groups.(4)
    • Discuss with the group prior to starting out online what the guidelines and values are for sharing information with the group.
      • Does the group want to share their personal information with each other? 
      • Does the group wish to share information about their level of fitness, adaptations they need for participating in activities, and what type of activity they prefer?
      • Is there a  preferred way of organizing information so that it is easy to find using hashtags or folders?
    • Use Facebook or other social media sites to keep the group connected.
    • Leaders can call members individually, or members can meet using apps such as GoToMeeting or Zoom.
    • Use the tools listed above to share resources for staying active such as online workout videos and encourage the group to talk about how people are coping with COVID-19 and how they could be better supported. 
  • The Heart and Stroke foundation offers and online webinar that can help patients do cardiac rehabilitation programs virtually during COVID-19 (5)
  • The University of Ottawa offers a virtual care program that includes a train-the-trainer approach for providers that want to participate (6)
  • Stroke Recovery BC offers an excellent website to organize their recovery programs – this type of virtual programming could be a good example for new exercise groups (7)

The Canadian Physiotherapy Association offers guidelines for tele-rehabilitation on their website for individual patients (8). The College of Physiotherapists of BC offers recommendations on what to consider for starting tele-rehabilitation.  (9)

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  1. Burkow TM, Vognild LK, Johnsen E, Bratvold A, Risberg MJ. Promoting exercise training and physical activity in daily life: a feasibility study of a virtual group intervention for behaviour change in COPD. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making [Internet]. 2018 Dec [cited 2020 Jun 13];18(1). Available from:
  2. The Use of the Internet to Deliver Cardiac Rehabilitation Remotely to Patients with Cardiovascular Disease | Canada Health Infoway [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2020 Jun 16]. Available from:
  3. Europe PMC. Europe PMC [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2020 Jun 17]. Available from:
  4. ‌Ainley R. My Arthritis Support Group Can’t Meet in Person Right Now, So Here’s How We’re Adjusting for Coronavirus Quarantine [Internet]. CreakyJoints. 2020 [cited 2020 Jun 13]. Available from:
  5. Cardiac rehab during COVID 19 [Internet]. Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. 2020 [cited 2020 Jun 16]. Available from:
  6. ‌Virtual Care Program | University of Ottawa Heart Institute | Prevention & Wellness Centre [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2020 Jun 16]. Available from:
  7. ‌RecoveryAdmin. Stroke Recovery Branch Programs – Stroke Recovery Association of BC [Internet]. Stroke Recovery Association of BC. 2020 [cited 2020 Jun 17]. Available from:
  8. ‌Tele-Rehabilitation in Times of COVID-19 | Canadian Physiotherapy Association [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2020 Jun 17]. Available from:
  9. ‌Tele-Rehabilitation – CPTBC – College of Physical Therapists of British Columbia [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2020 Jun 17]. Available from:


The above is intended to serve as a rapidly-created, accessible source of information curated by medical students and healthcare professionals. It is for educational purposes only and is not a complete reference resource. It is not professional medical advice, and is not a substitute for the discretion, judgment, and duties of healthcare professionals. You are solely responsible for evaluating the information above.