SilverSneakers takes sting out of exercise
“It gets me up and going in the morning, it’s like going to school,” says Bob Brelsford, who describes his age as somewhere on the upside of 65.
The Palm Springs resident settles in an armless chair in the midst of a dozen more senior-age exercisers who carry on a stream of chatter as they choose gear for the hour — hand weights separated by color from a pile on the floor, a stretchy exercise band with handles and a small yellow exercise ball about the size of a grapefruit from a box in the corner.
The scene is the SilverSneakers studio at World Gym in Palm Springs. One of the nation’s leading fitness programs designed exclusively for older adults, SilverSneakers serves more than 11 million eligible members in more than 3,500 fitness and wellness facilities nationwide.
Medicare benefit for many
More than 65 Medicare health plans offer the program as a benefit to members. Member snowbirds and travelers can drop in at facilities across the country.
At least one dozen gyms and Curves studios in the Coachella Valley schedule time for SilverSneakers. Students can take regular classes or exercise on their own as the plan gives them full use of participating facilities.
Corporate literature describes the main aim of SilverSneakers: “Help manage health, increase strength, balance and endurance. Classes are total-body conditioning, designed to increase muscular strength, endurance, range of movement, flexibility, balance, agility and coordination.”
Simply put, “It’s moving,” says Emile Paska, certified program instructor at World Gym. “More research says move, move your body, do things. The more you move the better off you are.”
For all fitness levels
SilverSneakers recognizes the different levels of ability among participants, he says.
Students may seek overall fitness, but some are recovering from strokes, surgeries, tennis elbow and other maladies of age.
“I tell people to do what they can,” says Paska, “and I encourage them to do more. “He says his current Palm Springs class told him “we have balance issues.”
“So they need more core work,” says Paska. “Their core needs to be in better shape. We do Pilates in chairs — that improves the core.”
SilverSneakers does have two golden rules. Students must wear shoes, as those with diabetes are more susceptible to infection, and no exercises take students lower than the seat of a chair to avoid any problems getting up.
His class is not all sweat and exercise. It’s a social outlet. Some of his students have been together going on 10 years, bounced from gym to gym.
“We like to have fun with it,” says Paska. “We talk about everything — football, politics, crazy people, recipes, how to wash vegetables, movies.”
Nationwide, SilverSneakers points to success. Its 2013 member survey found participants reported 50 percent improvement in chronic disease conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Also, they had at least a 50 percent improvement in arthritis pain, limb numbness and lower back pain.