Atlanta startup Vivo’s online workout classes connected parents, children during pandemic
By Erin Schilling – Digital Editor
It wasn’t that they were ignoring Covid-19 safety precautions. In 2020, Levitan founded an online strength-training fitness startup for older adults. The only way he could convince his dad to join? They had to do the classes together.
Their relationship went from one phone call a week to seeing each other in the virtual class twice a week. In a little over a year, Levitan’s 79-year-old father went from doing planks supported by the back of a chair to elbow planks on the ground. He’s never missed a class.
“He’s gotten fit,” Levitan said. “It changed his quality of life, and it’s improved our relationship because of this shared experience we have together.”
Levitan, an Atlanta Tech Village mentor, started Vivo after spending his career in software corporations and startups. He wanted to do something that could have a positive impact on people. Around the same time, his parents started having more and more health problems as they got older.
After consulting with nutritionists and scientific advisors from Duke University and Emory University, he founded Vivo, a small-group, strength-training fitness program.
“You have to be challenged,” Levitan said. “If you aren’t challenged, you don’t get outcomes. Many older adult fitness programs today are afraid of hurting people, so the opposite happens.”
Because the classes are live-streamed and small, the trainer can see the participants and explain how to do a certain move or how to modify it to fit their needs.
After two months of Vivo classes, participants gain an average of 25% in strength and endurance, Levitan said. The program has a 90% retention rate and runs more than 50 classes per week.
Each class is about 45 minutes and includes a dynamic warm up, flexibility training and cognitive exercises, where the participants do an activity while the trainer asks questions. Then the class completes the strength workout, a cool down and a mindfulness activity. The program is $159 a month for twice-a-week classes.
Levitan wants Vivo to become a part of the healthcare ecosystem. Instead of prescribing some medicines, doctors could recommend the program to their older patients as preventive or mitigating measures to health problems. The startup applied for a grant from the National Institutes of Health to research whether Vivo could be a treatment for diabetes, Levitan said.
So far, Vivo has mostly advertised through word of mouth, Levitan said. About a third of the participants are doing the classes with someone else, much like Levitan and his dad.
As Vivo plans to scale the program, Levitan doesn’t want to take away the small groups, which may range from six to 10 people. Instead, he’s thinking that Vivo could build a gig marketplace for older adult trainers.
“If you’re over the age of 65, it’s really hard to get a job,” Levitan said. “And who better to train older adults than other older adults?”
The startup has 10 employees and has yet to raise a seed round.