Vivo: Improving Health Outcomes through Strength Training

By Mark Ogilbee posted 03-16-2023 04:21 PM

Vivo participants join an online fitness class

Vivo is an online, live and interactive fitness program for older adults with a focus on increasing strength and function. An AgeTech Collaborative™ startup participant, Vivo uses assessments to identify baselines and measure progress, and its dual-task exercises yield cognitive benefits while creating community, accountability and social engagement.

Founder and CEO Eric Levitan sat down with us to share the company’s vision and explain the benefits of Vivo. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and length. 


Can you tell us a little bit about Vivo?  

Vivo is an online small group fitness program for older adults. Our primary focus is on helping people build strength. We all lose muscle mass as we age, and there are so many negative consequences that come with losing strength: We’re more likely to fall, it’s harder to perform simple daily activities, and it can lead to diseases like osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. Ultimately, losing strength robs us of our independence. 

Vivo is not a video. It’s a live and interactive small group experience that we do over Zoom. We cap our classes at eight people, so our trainers can see everybody and can give individualized feedback, help correct your form, and modify your exercises if you’re experiencing pain or discomfort. But they’re also making sure you’re being challenged — because that challenge is what actually results in outcomes. 

We make it very much about social connection and building community because we know that for most people, community is at the heart of behavioral change.  


Do the exercises require any kind of equipment? 

We do two kinds of exercises. The first is bodyweight exercises. There’s this trio of exercises that are really impactful: pushups, squats and planks. Those three exercises work the whole body, and they’re something anybody can do. For example, if you can’t do a traditional pushup, you can stand against the wall and push yourself away from the wall, and that’s a pushup. We meet people where they are, then slowly progress and challenge them to work a little bit harder each time to actually build muscle and make changes in their lives. 

We also send people a welcome kit, which includes two resistance bands. We use those extensively in our programming because you can do lots of different exercises with them, and they’re really effective at creating a level of challenge to get outcomes. Plus, they’re gentle on the joints. 


What was the catalyst for starting Vivo? 

Two incidents inspired me. First, I saw a neurologist give a presentation on the four cornerstones of healthy aging: nutrition, exercise, sleep, and meditation or mental health. But he really dove into the exercise angle, and he used a word I’d never heard before: sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is the progressive loss of muscle mass as you age. We associate aging with frailty, but the condition of sarcopenia is the reason we become frail — and strength training is a wonderful intervention to counteract that. 

Shortly after that, my mom started having a series of falls. Her doctor told her she needed to walk more, but she was already walking every day. After learning about sarcopenia, I knew that walking was not enough. You have to challenge your muscles on a regular basis to keep them strong. 


What are the toughest obstacles you’ve had to overcome as you’ve built Vivo? 

There are three significant ones. There’s a big obstacle to getting older adults to understand that this is something they can do. It’s not too late; even if they haven’t exercised in decades, they can still see significant progress and do it safely. 

The second is around the healthcare system’s emphasis on highly scalable, low-cost interventions. Unfortunately, those kinds of solutions don’t work that well. What older adults need in this kind of intervention is another human being — but that makes it less scalable and more expensive. So we’ve been trying to navigate the B2B side and get Vivo integrated with healthcare. 

The third is raising money. So much of what we’re doing in the longevity space is cutting edge, and investors haven’t figured out how to invest in AgeTech companies and help curate the path to growth. Therefore, the investment just isn’t quite there. 

Have you seen any benefits working with AARP and the AgeTech Collaborative™? 

The brand recognition of AARP is unmatched in the space, and having some involvement with AARP is a wonderful stamp of approval on what we’re doing. More importantly, AARP really understands that our growing population of older adults is presenting society with new kinds of problems. AARP sees the need to help companies like Vivo, and it’s not just lip service: There are introductions being made, and education that’s taking place; AARP is dedicating people, resources and money to help startups in this space. 


Is there anything else about Vivo that you’d like to share? 

We’re so excited about the impact that we’re seeing from people who are using Vivo. Strength training not only helps prevent falls — it gives people better quality sleep, people tend to lose weight, and it helps improve your mood. It’s literally never too late to start building strength; you can see some meaningful results in just four to eight weeks. 

We’re working toward getting Vivo integrated into the healthcare and caregiving space so that it’s something that anybody can have access to. We also want to bring Vivo to economically disadvantaged areas where people might not traditionally have access to programs like this.


Visit Vivo’s website to learn more about the company and their offerings.