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HSS Sees Huge Increase in Participation in Virtual Health and Fitness Offerings

The COVID-19 pandemic may have turned our world upside down, but many people staying home have found solace in online classes, workshops and lectures. At Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), participation in virtual health and wellness offerings has increased almost 500 percent since March, according to Robyn Wiesel, associate director of Public & Patient Education.

The webinars, which are open to the public, have garnered interest nationwide. Many are offered free of charge or for a small fee. They run from an hourlong discussion on managing chronic pain to seven-week sessions in yoga, Pilates or Tai Chi. Student athletes can take exercise classes. Older adults can get advice on dealing with arthritis. People can learn why good posture is important and how they can improve theirs. The list goes on. The classes are offered on Zoom or occasionally via conference call.

“HSS is a recognized leader in musculoskeletal health, and the online offerings help us continue to honor our commitment to promote health, fitness and quality of life. All instructors are credentialed HSS staff members,” said Ms. Wiesel. “Our lectures and workshops aim to educate and give participants a sense of community, and our exercise classes help them maintain or enhance their fitness level.”

In the midst of a pandemic, the ability to take some control over our health can empower us and reduce stress, according to Julia Kim, PhD, a clinical psychologist at HSS. “Physical movement is not only great for your body, but also for your mind and emotions. It helps to release stressful or unwanted energy in a healthy way, allowing for muscle tension to release.”

In a recent nationwide survey on mental health by the US Census Bureau and other federal agencies, one-third of respondents reported symptoms of depression or anxiety. Dr. Kim points to the value of online engagement to help us feel better, even when we’re isolated from family and friends.

“Being stuck at home for any reason does not mean you cannot engage in life. Learning to adapt and do things in different ways gives us more freedom and the opportunity to live life to the fullest at any given time,” she says. “Technology provides a wonderful opportunity to connect with others, reinforcing that you are not alone and providing the ability to engage in classes together. It’s also an opportunity to meet people with similar interests, even if via video or phone.”

Katherine Shapiro, E-RYT 500, a senior yoga teacher and master Pilates instructor, says the response from participants has been overwhelmingly positive. “I have received several letters and multiple comments that the program has been their sole reason to get out of bed in the morning and kept them sane during the stay-at-home order,” she says. “I have been told that after class they feel joyful and uplifted. The feeling is mutual, as I, too, look forward to the classes and feel joy in seeing everyone onscreen.”

Surveys by the HSS Public & Patient Education Department indicate that the sessions not only have enhanced participants’ physical health but have lifted their spirits as well. These are some of their comments:

“Just want you to know that, during this crazy time, your class is invaluably sane-making. Thank you for the virtual anti-depressant! It means a lot!”

"Thank you for the opportunity to be in a caring/sharing support community with professional leadership and knowledge. My feelings of stress and isolation are reduced, and feelings of gratitude and self-regulation increased."

“The planets were aligned today and I had you with music and instruction. It was an exceptionally wonderful class, full of calm and peace. There is truly something magical about doing Tai Chi with you. I’m thankful that technology is able to allow us to meet up, to see and hear each other despite separation.”

Anyone can sign up for an online class. Lectures have no limit on the number of participants, although exercise programs have a maximum enrollment of 25 to ensure that everyone can get the feedback and attention they need. The instructor can see participants onscreen and advise them on their form.

HSS adds new online events and classes weekly, according to Ms. Wiesel. “The goal is to reach a diverse group of people of all ages and to meet the needs of our community. We are currently scheduled through mid-August, with some events still being added. All you need is a computer, laptop, tablet, iPad or smartphone to access our online programs. A call-in option is usually available too.”

Webinars are also offered in foreign languages. A workshop in managing arthritis presented in Cantonese was very well-received, and the Public & Patient Education staff are planning offerings in Spanish, Cantonese and Mandarin for the fall.

For information and to sign up, visit:

Additional lectures are offered on the HSS YouTube Playlist:

About HSS

HSS is the world’s leading academic medical center focused on musculoskeletal health. At its core is Hospital for Special Surgery, nationally ranked No. 1 in orthopedics (for the 14th consecutive year), No. 2 in rheumatology by U.S. News & World Report (2023-2024), and the best pediatric orthopedic hospital in NY, NJ and CT by U.S. News & World Report “Best Children’s Hospitals” list (2023-2024). In a survey of medical professionals in more than 20 countries by Newsweek, HSS is ranked world #1 in orthopedics for a fourth consecutive year (2023). Founded in 1863, the Hospital has the lowest readmission rates in the nation for orthopedics, and among the lowest infection and complication rates. HSS was the first in New York State to receive Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Service from the American Nurses Credentialing Center five consecutive times. An affiliate of Weill Cornell Medical College, HSS has a main campus in New York City and facilities in New Jersey, Connecticut and in the Long Island and Westchester County regions of New York State, as well as in Florida. In addition to patient care, HSS leads the field in research, innovation and education. The HSS Research Institute comprises 20 laboratories and 300 staff members focused on leading the advancement of musculoskeletal health through prevention of degeneration, tissue repair and tissue regeneration. In addition, more than 200 HSS clinical investigators are working to improve patient outcomes through better ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat orthopedic, rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases. The HSS Innovation Institute works to realize the potential of new drugs, therapeutics and devices. The HSS Education Institute is a trusted leader in advancing musculoskeletal knowledge and research for physicians, nurses, allied health professionals, academic trainees, and consumers in more than 165 countries. The institution is collaborating with medical centers and other organizations to advance the quality and value of musculoskeletal care and to make world-class HSS care more widely accessible nationally and internationally.