If I told you that I know something that will make you look better, feel better, reduce your blood pressure, relieve your anxiety and add years to your life, to name but a few of the benefits, would you be interested? Of course you would, and I’m sure you know where I’m going with this. But therein lies the problem. Most of us know we need to get off our butts and start a regular exercise program, but we just sit and atrophy. Here’s another thing: Most of us know that exercise is very good for us, indeed, the key to a better life, but I don’t think we realize just how very good it is for us. Hey, we’re talking life and death.
Better Late Than Never
I am not exaggerating. According to Help Guide, a recent Swedish study has determined that physical activity is the number one contributor to adding extra years to your life – even if you don’t start exercising until your senior years. Medical professionals agree across the board that as you grow older, an active lifestyle becomes more important than ever to your health. More benefits of regular exercise are:
- helps control joint swelling and pain associated with Arthritis
- helps maintain and lose weight
- gives you a greater sense of well-being
- reduces the risk of dying of coronary heart disease
Another major benefit of regular exercise is it helps us to maintain the ability to live independently. This is a biggie. We all want to go out in style.
What Seems To Be The Holdup?
Sure, most of us know that we should be exercising, but according to a report by Mandy Oaklander in time magazine, despite the “remarkable health benefits of exercise,” more than half of Baby Boomers don’t do any at all. The reasons for this gross inactivity vary greatly, but some of the most common ones are:
- poor body image
- chronic illness
- joint pain
- just plain lazy
What’s ironic is all three of these reasons not to exercise can be positively impacted by a regular exercise program. Conversely, not exercising can exacerbate these conditions. The most prominent cause of loss of strength and stamina in seniors is reduced physical activity. We don’t necessarily have to hit the gym 3 or 4 times a week, but it is imperative that we do something.
Nation’s Best Known Program For Seniors
Indeed, you don’t have to go to a gym to exercise, but it makes it a heck of a lot easier and a heck of a lot more fun. A great benefit of the gym environment is the social support we get from our peers. This can go a long way toward getting us to exercise when we just ain’t feeling it.
Depending on who you ask, the average gym membership for seniors can cost anywhere from $25 to $60. Planet Fitness offers a no-contract $10 a month membership, but it’s basically just meat and bread. You can only use it at the gym where you signed up; can’t bring a guest; can’t use the massage chairs; no free wifi, and you don’t get a T-shirt.
What you can get, if you are eligible for Medicare, is a free gym membership in the Silver Sneakers Program. It was founded in 1912 by Mary Swanson, to improve the physical, mental and emotional health of older Americans. It is the best known senior exercise program in the country; and for good reason. The program subsidizes gym memberships for seniors at most of the major fitness centers in the country, including Planet Fitness. As a member of the Silver Sneakers Program, seniors can get for free all the stuff they would not give you with the $10 membership.
In addition to the free gym memberships, the Silver Sneakers Program has some pretty attractive alternatives for members who want to work out at home or for whatever reason can’t get to a gym. These include:
- Walking Kit – pedometer that also measures distance traveled and calories, Quick-Start Guide
- Strength Kit – exercise resistance band w/over-the-door attachment, Quick-Start Guide
- Stress Kit – Meditation For Beginners DVD, resistance flat band, Quick-Start Guide
- online video library
Silver Sneakers also offers classes in dance, Tai Chi, and a Work-Out of the Week online.
Take Advantage Of a Good Thing
So, if the Silver Sneakers program offers us free access to all of these opportunities to improve the quality of our lives and gives us access to more than 16,000 state-of-the-art gyms all over the country, why are we not taking advantage of it? According to Steve Warner, of the United Health Care Medicare Advantage Product Team, “Over 90% of policyholders eligible for the program never step foot in a gym.” This, taken in conjunction with the other aforementioned dismal stats, means that between the two of us, probably neither one of us is hitting the gym.
But, hey, lots of seniors are “getting their work in.” A lot of them are health nuts, but many of them go for the fellowship. Studies show a direct relationship between physical exercise and social interaction: Exercising makes you feel good about yourself and the better you feel about yourself, the more you socially interact with other people. So, if you want a life, hit the gym.
Check Your Policy
The Silver Sneakers Program is not a part of Medicare. However, the program is offered by most of the major insurance companies that provide Medicare Advantage Programs, also known as Medicare Part C. Many seniors with the plans are not even aware that the program is part of their coverage. It is automatically included. You can’t add it or remove it. It is absolutely free. It does not add one cent to the cost of your policy. You can check your coverage at the Silver Sneakers website.
You’ll Thank Yourself Later
There really is no downside to participating in a regular exercise program. You can taylor a program to accommodate practically any physical restrictions. Plenty of ups, though: long life, more self-esteem, new friends, a real life. Again, researchers say the important thing is that you begin exercising. You are not too old. That dog won’t hunt. I’ll give you the rest of the day, but tomorrow, it’s up and at it. Click on the book below for some easy, effective exercises to get started.