The SilverSneakers Way

Strength in numbers for senior fitness

MAINTAINING BALANCE: SilverSneakers is available to Medicare beneficiaries through many Medicare Advantage plans, supplement carriers and group retiree plans.

Fitness workout options for seniors can be similar to those for younger adults. But they often involve different considerations … and have at least one nationwide benefit.

Improving seniors’ well-being is the goal of SilverSneak- ers, a nationwide health and fitness program designed for adults age 65 and older. The company, founded in 1992, is available to more than 14.5 million Medicare beneficiaries through many Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare Supplement carriers and group retiree plans. More than 15,000 gyms participate nationwide.

Older adults can strengthen their muscles, improve cardiovascular endurance and improve flexibility just like other exercising groups. But one common issue among those at least age 65—and not often experienced by young- er exercise enthusiasts—is maintaining balance. It can be particularly troublesome for those starting a fitness program for the first time, or returning to exercise after years away from a workout routine.

 

WORKOUTS DESIGNED FOR SENIORS: Nationwide, more than 15,000 gyms participate in SilverSneakers programs, designed for adults age 65 and older.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four Americans at least age 65 falls every year. The culprits for these mishaps include weakening bones that are susceptible to fractures and less flexible joints.

While it’s not imperative for seniors to have a SilverSneakers plan to participate at a gym, the incentive may provide motivation. Monthly memberships are included without additional cost in many Medicare plans.

“We have two programs,” says Jeremy McCarthy of Planet Fitness in North Fort Myers. “A classic membership, which costs nothing, and a black club membership … for half of the monthly membership, about $13. It includes free fitness training from a certified trainer, [the ability to] bring a guest and 50% off drinks.”

There may be differences depending upon location, but SilverSneakers programs are incorporated in gyms throughout Collier County. Its website, silversneakers. com, also includes live and online fitness classes, on-demand individual classes and overall workout videos.

“We sign them up just like a doctor’s office,” says Rebec- ca Carrillo of Crunch Fitness in Naples. “When we determine someone is eligible, we bill the membership through insurance, just like a doctor’s office.”

According to SilverSneakers, program instructors are specifically trained to work with seniors and their common health issues. Avoiding quick starts and stops and other jarring movements limits unnecessary stress on bones and joints.

SilverSneakers’ classes can strengthen ankles, knees and hips for a sturdy foundation. Core strength and up- per-body posture are also improved, both beneficial for remaining upright and steady. Coaches are also aware some older students may have blood pressure issues. As such, instructions for slower breathing patterns may be included in exercise lifting weights to steady blood pressure and heartbeat rate. Workouts can also be divided into segments or modified in other ways for easier learning.

“Our gym has one really important step that we do for all of our members, especially those who are coming back after a long time of not having physical exercise,” says Carillo. “We call it the Crunch One Kickoff. We set them up with one of our certified trainers, who are absolutely wonderful. They act as a user-manual-tour-guide sort of thing. They show them all the ins and outs of what this gym can offer.”

The programs’ benefits also include fitness instructors’ knowledge of aging exercisers’ potential issues with arthritis, diabetes and osteoporosis. Patients with certain health conditions are often concerned about getting hurt. While discussing your health with a physician before beginning a workout routine is imperative, exercise is safe and beneficial for most older adults.

Beyond the exercise benefits, SilverSneakers members also often benefit equally from exercising in groups. The adage “strength in numbers” is often mentioned by new and veteran SilverSneakers members. The goals are to have fun, socialize and get fit.

 

Photo Credit: Courtesy Planet Fitness, Getty