As an orthopedist, I frequently tell my retired patients that in order to prevent disabling fractures as they get older, they have to keep their muscles strong too. Exercise stimulates bone growth that builds healthy density and insurance against fracture. That’s why I’ve been telling my patients about this great national fitness program that they may already have as a benefit on their Medicare/supplemental insurance health care plans. You’ll want to know about this too.
SilverSneakers: The National Fitness Plan You May Already Have
When people retire, they often become sedentary spending too much time sitting watching television or just not doing much. Now, if your health warrants you take things down a few notches, that’s understandable, but you can still participate in fitness programs to help your muscles and bones stay strong.
Another thing that sometimes happens when people retire is that their social life decreases too. That’s why I like to tell my patients, and would like to tell my readers, all about Silver Sneakers – the great national fitness plan that you can take advantage of if you’re receiving Medicare and have supplemental insurance through a variety of carriers.
Silver Sneakers is a fun, fitness program that helps senior citizens stay active, get fit, make new friends and have a lot of fun doing so. Health plans around the country include SilverSneakers memberships in their plans. If you have one of these plans, you’ve got automatic membership in several different health clubs around the country like YMCA, Fitness 19, Anytime Fitness, SNAP and other participating fitness centers. Here are some of the benefits that you’ll have access to in the SilverSneakers program:
1. General conditioning classes that are offered at the individual facilities, as well as whatever exercise equipment they have on site (usually pretty extensive), pool, sauna, and whatever other amenities their particular sites offer.
2. Customized SilverSneakers classes are specifically designed with older adults in mind to help them gain/maintain flexibility, strength, balance, endurance. All are taught by certified instructors who also undergo an additional SilverSneakers training that further qualifies them for working successfully with older clients. There are a variety of classes offered as well. There are a number of these that include fitness routines done to music – like Zumba – and there are also chair-based fitness routines for those seniors who are unsteady on their feet. There are Circuit classes, where you rotate through a variety of strength-endurance focused exercises on equipment, there is classic yoga, Cardio routines that utilize aerobic workouts, water/swim fitness classes that focus on overall body conditioning, balance, agility, and coordination.
3. Seminars, events that promote healthy lifestyles for seniors.
4. SilverSneakers Program Advisors who are available at each participating facility that will help you get started with your program.
5. Online/telephone support advisors to health-focused programs like quitting smoking, weight loss, stress reduction.
6. SilverSneakers Steps program for members living in areas where participating facilities may be too far for them to travel.
Does Your Insurance Carrier Offer SilverSneakers?
SilverSneakers is offered through a variety of insurance carriers – like Humana, Paramount Elite, Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans across the U.S., AARP United Healthcare across the U.S. Anthem Blue Cross, and a multitude of others. In order to find out if your health plan is one that has SilverSneakers, or if you’d like to switch to one that does, you’ll need to visit their website (see Resources below), put in your state or zip code and see all the plans that are available to you.
But, even if your particular insurance plan does not include SilverSneakers as a benefit, and you don’t want to switch to one that does, you can still sign up for a SilverSneakers membership by joining one of the participating SilverSneakers facilities near you. Many of these fitness centers, like SNAP and Fitness 19, have very low monthly membership fees and your membership can be used anywhere in the U.S. where there is a center. There are about 11,000 participating facilities throughout the United States. Once a member of SilverSneakers, you can also access their online community to get additional health and fitness tips.
If your community doesn’t have a convenient facility where you can use your SilverSneakers benefits, you can use the SilverSneakers Steps plan. You’ll get an advisor who’ll set up a fitness plan of action for you. You’ll log in and record the number of steps you take each day, doing the various activities you and your advisor have determined. There are even online video classes that you can participate in right in your home on your computer.
Remember, you’re never too old, or too out of shape, to start getting fit again. Many of my patients come to me for a physician clearance for the SilverSneakers plan and I’m always happy to provide one. You’ll need one from your doctor as well – just one more way, the SilverSneakers people are looking out for your health. The SilverSneakers programs are an excellent way for older adults to stay fit and have fun. Two of my patients even met their spouses through SilverSneakers! Check out your health plan, you may already have SilverSneakers as a benefit!
Mark Bromson, M.D.