Staying active is crucial to maintaining your health and longevity the older you get. For that reason, SilverSneakers exists to provide exercise programs and other fitness-related activities specifically to senior citizens.
Because these programs are often paid for by insurance, Medicare recipients may be curious whether their insurance may cover them. Thankfully, Medicare does cover SilverSneakers services, depending on your plan. Even if it doesn’t, there still may be other options available. Read on to learn more.
What is SilverSneakers?
SilverSneakers is a fitness and health program targeted at adults 65 and older with Medicare Advantage. This membership covers the cost of basic monthly membership and fitness classes at a participating gym. Members don’t have to pay for a gym membership—it’s included as a benefit of their Medicare plan.
However, this program doesn’t just boost your health and pay membership fees but saves you more money, too. Participants reduced healthcare costs and had fewer hospital admissions as soon as 1-2 years after joining. Increased participation led to more significant savings. Members can also save through healthy living providers and equipment discounts.
What Kinds of Fitness Classes Does SilverSneakers Offer
SilverSneakers offers more than 70 group fitness classes tailored to older adults. These classes may occur at gyms, community centers, senior centers, or even online. Classes include:
- Classic: The most basic and widespread of the classes, this foundational course builds strength and endurance and teaches fall avoidance
- Strength and Cardiovascular: Build endurance through circuit training, boot camp-style classes, water aerobics, and dance.
- Stability and Flexibility Classes: Improve balance and range of movement through tai chi, yoga, pilates, and more.
Which parts of Medicare cover SilverSneakers?
SilverSneakers is a common benefit within Medicare Advantage plans, also known as Medicare Part C.
Those 65 and older can choose between two primary forms of Medicare. Original Medicare includes hospital and medical insurance and coverage, also known as Medicare Part A and Part B. Participants add Medicare Part D for prescription drugs.
Medicare Advantage plans bundle Parts A, B, and usually Part D, along with extra benefits. Private health insurance companies offer Medicare Advantage plans and may offer fitness center coverage and vision, dental, and hearing service coverage. However, these coverages change annually. Not all Medicare Advantage plans cover the program specifically—some may provide a set-rate reimbursement for gym memberships or fitness classes, or other fitness or health club memberships.
Does Original Medicare cover SilverSneakers?
Original Medicare (Parts A and B) doesn’t cover this program or any other gym or fitness program. While Medicare Part B covers many preventive services, fitness classes or memberships do not count as preventive services under Medicare.
However, while Original Medicare (Parts A and B, as well as C) do not cover membership, other Medicare Parts might. Some people add a Medigap plan to bridge “gaps” in the costs of the original program.
How Can I Get SilverSneakers if I Have Original Medicare?
If you have Original Medicare, it’s theoretically possible to get membership through a Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) plan. Medigap plans are standardized but still vary by provider to some degree. You’ll have to ask the plan provider if it covers membership.
Unfortunately, while possible, coverage may not be common—Medigap mainly covers cost gaps. Further, you can’t combine a Medigap plan with Medicare Advantage Plan. Despite this, you can access some on-demand video workout classes through the website if you don’t have a Medigap or Medicare Advantage plan.
What Does a SilverSneakers Membership Include?
A membership includes the following:
- Basic fitness membership to a gym
- Access to thousands of fitness centers nationwide, including name-brand gyms
- Group fitness classes
- Other community or online classes include line dancing, meditation, and brain health.
- Health education workshops
- Social activities and networking for older adults
- Workout videos and programs through the website and mobile app
- Discounts from select physical therapists and nutritionists
- 40% off fitness equipment and other items
As mentioned above, the program offers a wide range of online and in-person classes explicitly developed for senior health. Classes build cardio health, mobility, flexibility, balance, and strength.
Classes take place at thousands of locations and fitness centers. Some locations include independent and chain gyms, community centers and churches, senior centers, and social clubs. Members can also visit one of the 22,000 participating gyms while traveling through a national reciprocity agreement. A zip code search on the site often reveals dozens of locations nearby. Some locations offer gym membership, while others offer classes developed to maintain senior independence.
SilverSneakers is a valued Medicare Advantage plan benefit—58% of those asked said they’d switch plans if their plan no longer offered a membership.
LA Fitness is a widely recognized national gym chain and part of the 700-site Fitness International, LLC. At LA Fitness, a commonly available class for members is the “SilverSneakers Classic.” This class offers older adults total-body conditioning using weights or other resistance tools, along with fall prevention assistance.
Under the gym’s “Active Aging” category, 24-Hour Fitness offers Classic, Circuit, and yoga classes, in addition to the brand’s own senior fitness and senior yoga classes. However, 24-Hour Fitness emerged from bankruptcy at the end of 2020—after closing gyms. This reality may reduce access or nearby gyms, depending on your location.
The 2,300+ national gym chain Planet Fitness does work with the program and its members.
Can I Join SilverSneakers if My Health Insurance Plan Doesn’t Provide It
SilverSneakers works with more than 60 healthcare plans, but your health insurance plan may not give access to it. You can still create a “fan account” on the website. A fan account gives you access to more than 200 classes and programs online and through the app, including:
- Signature Classes (classic, circuit, stability, and more)
- Programs to prevent falls and test your cardio capacity
- Short videos on topics like meditation, lowering blood pressure, and healthy food shopping
However, you can not take the live online classes without a membership, available through participating health plans.