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Silver Sneakers: Not Your Grandma’s Fitness Program

Liz Merritt
May 8, 2017
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First up, a confession. I’ve been of the mind most of my very active adult life that any exercise program with the word “silver” in the name was just not cool. With that said, my eyes were opened recently to the new face of SilverSneakers exercise programs. Don’t judge.

SilverSneakers exercise has graduated from the ranks of old fogey to cool, offering everything from cardio boot camps and HIIT training to Latin dance and yoga. Class offerings have come a long way since the program’s birth 25 years ago.

Tailor-Made for Baby Boomers

SilverSneakers exercise

SilverSneakers has graduated from the ranks of old fogey to cool.

The real kicker with SilverSneakers exercise is millions of people are eligible for free access to fitness training who don’t even know it. What’s even better is there’s a new program geared just for active Baby Boomers, called BOOM, introduced to meet the fitness needs of active adults.

Izzy Velasco, 55, an Orange County, California Baby Boomer and lifelong exercise enthusiast, discovered the BOOM program about a year ago. “My mom attended SilverSneakers classes, and she talked it up a lot. She was thriving and exercising and I love the idea of classes for that age group. So when SilverSneakers came to my gym, I took a look.”

Velasco began attending BOOM classes as a way to ease back into exercise following an injury. The classes are included as part of her gym membership at Crunch Fitness.

“I love to work out,” Velasco says. “I’ve done everything from Jazzercise to Zumba and lots of classes outside of the gym. I found the BOOM classes to be an excellent way to get back into exercising and yoga. They were a great gateway to engage as a beginner again as my body was getting stronger and more flexible.”

In the time she has been participating in SilverSneakers BOOM classes, Velasco has added a strength-training class and a cardio dance class called Move It. “The classes are just as challenging as a regular class I would take in the gym” she says. “For me, it’s all about getting a great workout in.” Velasco works about 5-6 times a week, incorporating BOOM classes with other classes.

What You Need to Know

SilverSneakers exercise

Classes include everything from cardio boot camps and HIIT training to Latin dance and yoga.

If you’re not familiar with SilverSneakers exercise programs, here’s the scoop. You have to be 65+ and have healthcare coverage through a Medicare-eligible program, such as Medicare Advantage supplement programs or private group retiree benefits. For eligible members, all SilverSneakers class offerings are free. To check your eligibility, go to the SilverSneakers website.

For Boomers yet to retire, the program may make more sense for our parents. I, for one, am continuously encouraging my 80-year-old mother to stay active and mobile. We already know a commitment to exercise at any age can support longevity. 

“Our goal is to have something for everybody and a great variety of programming,” says Margie Wojciechowski, Senior Public Relations Manager for Tivity Health, which owns the SilverSneakers program. “It’s not what everyone thinks this program is. We have challenging workouts. We have workouts in the community to make the programs more accessible.”

SilverSneakers Exercise Breakdown

Today, SilverSneakers offers eight types of class categories, ranging from the circuit training, cardio, yoga, water aerobics and balance/stability classes.

Additionally, the FLEX network is a community-based program in which classes are taught at local community centers, churches, a park or other public places. For many, this provides a less intimidating and more social environment than a group class at a gym.

Finally, BOOM is designed specifically for active older adults, including high-intensity cardio, dance workouts, functional strength training, yoga, Pilates and stretching.

Something for Everyone

SilverSneakers exercise

No matter where you are in your fitness journey, there’s something for everyone.

The program meets you where you are in your fitness journey, whether you’re a beginner or you’re looking for a challenging workout. According to Wojciechowski, 84% of SilverSneakers exercise participants complete aerobic activities at least three times a week.

A significant side benefit of the group fitness atmosphere, especially for older adults, is the camaraderie and a community of people who value the benefits of exercise at any age.

“The feedback we get from participants is that the program is so welcoming. People are comfortable and they want to come back,” says Wojciechowski. “It really goes beyond fitness and helps people develop friendships.”

Velasco would agree. Her advice for healthy aging is threefold: “Continue thriving and always keep moving. Keep hydrated. And always remain socially engaged with family and friends while having fun.”

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  1. Pingback: Adult Fitness Pioneer Comes Full Circle in Active Aging Arena

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