SilverSneakers & Medicare
What is SilverSneakers?
SilverSneakers is the premier program encouraging older adults to participate in physical activities that will help them to pursue fitness goals on their own terms. It sponsors activities and social events designed to keep seniors healthy while encouraging social interaction.
SilverSneakers provides guidance as well as convenient group exercise classes to help older adults improve general fitness, strength, flexibility, and walking ability. The program’s social events can also help you find new friends who share the desire to pursue an active lifestyle like yourself.
SilverSneakers is a program provided by a third party partner, Healthways, Inc., contracted with health plans offering the benefit.
SilverSneakers includes fun fitness classes, access to exercise equipment, certified trainers, health education seminars, social events, and an online tool to track fitness progress.
Does Medicare cover SilverSneakers?
Find Medicare plans that provide the SilverSneakers fitness program to enrollees at no additional cost in most cases:
- Many leading Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement plans across the country include the SilverSneakers fitness program as a benefit.
- Even moderate exercise can improve the health of older adults, including those who are frail or who have diseases associated with aging such as osteoporosis.
- Exercise not only enhances physical health but also mental health.
- Regular participation in SilverSneakers has been documented to help older adults increase strength, balance, and endurance.
SilverSneakers has over 11,000 locations across the United States. These locations include gyms, wellness centers, and YMCAs. Each location provides facility tours for individuals or groups. Additionally, each location can also give equipment demonstrations. Most locations are wheelchair accessible but full handicapped access is not guaranteed at every location.
Once enrolled in SilverSneakers, you have access to and are welcome to use any of the 11,000 participating facilities. Enrollees receive a list of local participating facilities, including addresses and phone numbers.
It is estimated that approximately 20% of seniors are eligible for the SilverSneakers health benefit. More than 65 leading Medicare Advantage as well as Medigap plans include SilverSneakers as a benefit. Contact us to discuss if there is a Medicare insurance plan in your area that includes the SilverSneakers benefit.
SilverSneakers uses fully certified instructors who have been trained to properly and safely lead exercise programs. Instructors also receive CPR-training and are trained on the steps to follow in the event of an emergency. Instructors receive in-person training and are evaluated before they can become a SilverSneakers instructor.
If you enroll in a Medicare insurance program that includes SilverSneakers as a benefit, you receive membership in the program at no extra cost* and you do not need to purchase a basic membership.
SilverSneakers enrollees receive a basic fitness membership at any of the 11,000 participating locations. When arriving to workout, please wear comfortable clothes as well as shoes with rubber soles.
SilverSneakers classes normally last from 45 to 60 minutes and are held at least twice a week. These classes are total body conditioning workouts and often involve hand-held weights, elastic tubing for resistance exercises, and small exercise balls. In some classes, a chair may be used by a participant for additional support and balance.
SilverSneakers also offers outdoor, as well as indoor, exercise opportunities. Some locations have yoga on the beach, exercise in a neighborhood park, or other fun outdoor exercise activities.
The Importance of Senior Exercise
It’s never too late to start exercising. Active lifestyles are important for maintaining health as well as quality of life. Moreover, exercise can benefit older adults mentally as well as physically. Moderate exercise can help alleviate stress and potentially reduce feelings of depression. Additionally, regular exercise may be able to improve mental function. Some studies have found regular exercise contributes to improvements when quickly shifting between tasks as well as planning an activity. Furthermore, doctors recommend weight-bearing, flexibility, and resistance exercises for those who suffer from osteoporosis.
With respect to SilverSneakers, regular participation in the program has been documented to help older adults increase strength, balance, and endurance.
Inactivity and a lack of exercise increase a person’s risk for heart attack whereas regular exercise can help reduce your risk. Some seniors have fears or concerns about exercise. However, inactivity poses health risks. The National Institute of Health says the following on their website for senior health:
"Although exercise and physical activity are among the healthiest things you can do for yourself, some older adults are reluctant to exercise. Some are afraid that exercise will be too hard or that physical activity will harm them. Others might think they have to join a gym or have special equipment. Yet, studies show that "taking it easy" is risky. For the most part, when older people lose their ability to do things on their own, it doesn't happen just because they've aged. It's usually because they're not active. According to the U.S. Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health, inactive people are nearly twice as likely to develop heart disease as those who are more active. Lack of physical activity also can lead to more visits to the doctor, more hospitalizations, and more use of medicines for a variety of illnesses."
Given the many health benefits of exercise, older adults should make fitness activities a permanent fixture in their lives. A consistent pattern of exercise and activity can benefit people suffering from chronic conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, or heart disease. While exercise may not completely eliminate these conditions, tangible health benefits can be realized.
Being fit can also help older adults retain their independence and improve their enjoyment of retirement years.
Below are some fitness goals and their potential benefits for seniors:
- Increased strength – Increased strength has numerous advantages for seniors. Stairs can become easier to climb, household chores can become less physically taxing, and gardening tasks like hoeing or moving fertilizer bags can be more easily performed.
- Improved balance – Balance is essential for safety. Better balance can reduce the risk of falls and the injuries that accompany them. A broken hip that resulted from a fall can involve a long and painful recovery process.
- Enhanced endurance – By improving endurance, older adults can engage in fun activities for longer periods without needing to rest or quit. Practically, that may mean more time playing with the grandkids or walking along a beach.
- Improved flexibility – Flexibility is often overlooked but it is very important. Simple daily activities like tying your shoes or putting on a sweater require a certain degree of flexibility. Flexibility needs to be maintained as we age.