What is the Medicare SilverSneakers Program?
SilverSneakers is a popular fitness program for Medicare beneficiaries 65 and up to increase physical health, social wellbeing, and strong community bonds. It does this by providing group fitness classes for all abilities facilitated by trained instructors.
As a nationwide program, SilverSneakers is available at 16,000 gyms and fitness centers across the United States.1
SilverSneakers eligibility requirements
SilverSneakers is available for people 65 and up who are part of a participating Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement plan. SilverSneakers eligibility is based on the following criteria:
- You have to be 65 or older
- You must be eligible for Medicare
- You have to be enrolled in a Medicare Advantage or Medigap plan that includes the SilverSneakers program membership
You can’t get a membership to the SilverSneakers Medicare program without being enrolled in a qualifying plan. To check your eligibility for the SilverSneakers program (and if your plan includes it), you can use the SilverSneakers instant eligibility check.
How does the SilverSneakers Medicare program work?
By partnering through national fitness centers, local gyms, healthcare providers, and community centers, the SilverSneakers program offers fitness classes for all activity levels at over 16,000 locations—nationwide. SilverSneakers provides a unique approach to help seniors stay active and connect with friends at the same time.
The SilverSneakers Medicare program is available only through select Medicare Advantage plans or a few Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plans. Once you get on a qualifying Medicare Advantage or Medigap plan, you’ll sign up for the SilverSneakers program and receive a card with a 16-digit number. This number will give you immediate entry to all the classes and equipment the SilverSneakers Medicare program offers.
To see if your current Medicare Advantage or Medigap plan grants you SilverSneakers eligibility, you can use the instant SilverSneakers eligibility checker.
What does a SilverSneakers membership include?
A SilverSneakers membership comes with access to over 16,000 fitness locations nationwide—that’s right, with the SilverSneakers program, you can use gyms and all its included amenities in SilverSneakers’ huge, national network.
But SilverSneakers is probably even better known for its group exercise classes run by qualified instructors (such as SilverSneakers Classic) which includes equipment available to use in the classes. The SilverSneakers program also offers social events, a fitness app (SilverSneakers GO), online resources for home workouts, and more.
What kinds of fitness classes does SilverSneakers offer?
SilverSneakers has a lot of classes available for every physical activity level. Whether it’s a stability class to improve balance and prevent falls, a water exercise class for low-impact aerobic workouts, a yoga class to increase flexibility, or an athletic, upper-body conditioning class to build strength, SilverSneakers offers quite a few options.
If you’d rather work out from home, there are also SilverSneakers on-demand videos, and an app called SilverSneakers GO that includes exercise videos.
If you want the community and the classes but don’t care for the gym environment, the SilverSneakers program offers more than 70 kinds of classes through its FLEX network—in churches, community centers, or recreation centers.2 In addition to being outside a gym (or even outside a building!), FLEX classes are typically smaller than gym offerings, and the instructors’ personal contact info is available for students to call and ask questions—or just get to know them. You can see what FLEX classes are available in your area with their FLEX locator tool.
A sample of SilverSneakers fitness classes
The SilverSneakers Medicare program offers over 70 types of fitness classes for all fitness levels, and each one is taught by a certified instructor. You can choose a class to help you meet a specific fitness goal—from mobility to building muscle.
Here is a sample of what you might find:
This is where it all started. With SilverSneakers Classic, the class adapts to your fitness level, using a chair for support if you need it and exercises can be modified to your ability as well. Overall, SilverSneakers Classic is a good way to help increase range of motion and muscle strength to make daily activities easier and improve overall well-being.
The SilverSneakers Circuit class is a choreographed routine set to music that incorporates movement with standing exercises that use rubber tubing and dumbbells. The class can be adapted to suit your fitness level, and chairs are available for support during the exercises.
A more rigorous workout than SilverSneakers Classic or Circuit, SilverSneakers Cardiofit is an aerobics-type class to build core strength, upper body strength, and cardio health. However, all of the exercises are low-impact.
Need better flexibility, balance, and range of motion? SilverSneakers Yoga may be your answer. A certified instructor helps guide the class through a set of yoga poses friendly to almost all fitness level. Apart from the physical benefits, SilverSneakers Yoga helps alleviate stress and increases relaxation.
This new SilverSneakers class takes a page out of a very old book, borrowing from the ancient martial art of Tai Chi. Don’t worry, no punches are thrown in this class. Instead, the instructor guides students through low-impact, slow, and deliberate movements to gain strength and balance. You may even walk out of the class feeling more mental clarity.
A great, low-impact aerobic class, SilverSneakers Splash is taught in a shallow pool—shallow enough to stand in. The certified instructor walks (splashes?) the class through a series of movements that can be varied in intensity depending on fitness level.
SilverSneakers Stability is organized specifically to impact daily life and make activities of daily living easier, hopefully preventing falls in the process. The class itself focuses on strengthening ankles, knees, and hips to help normal movement, and even has exercises to help improve reaction time. As with most classes in the SilverSneakers program, Stability can be modified to your fitness level.
If you’re looking for more intensity out of your workouts in 30 minutes or less, SilverSneakers has a series of classes for you. In the Boom series, there is a Boom Move class which is an aerobic dance class to improve cardio health, Boom Muscle which strengthens the major muscle groups, and Boom Mind which blends Pilates and yoga to improve core strength.
Does Medicare cover SilverSneakers?
Unfortunately, Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) does not offer or include SilverSneakers.
Additionally, you can’t buy a SilverSneakers membership outside of a health insurance plan from a private insurance company—you can only enroll through a qualifying MA or Medicare Supplement plan.
How to get a SilverSneakers membership
If you have Original Medicare and you’d like a SilverSneakers membership, you can see if there’s a Medicare Supplement plan available in your area that includes the program. Medicare Supplement (also known as Medigap) plans are supplemental health insurance plans that help cover costs like coinsurance, copays, or deductibles associated with your Medicare Coverage. Some plans even come with out-of-pocket limits, which Original Medicare doesn’t offer.
You can learn more about Medicare Supplement plans, or, if you’d like to see if there’s a plan with SilverSneakers available in your area, call the number below.
You can also get SilverSneakers through a Medicare Advantage plan. Medicare Advantage is another way to receive Medicare benefits by bundling everything Part A and Part B offers, and often gaining access to extra benefits such as vision, dental, hearing, or even SilverSneakers. Keep in mind, however, that you can only switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage if you have an enrollment period (like the Annual Election Period every October 15 through December 7).
You can learn more about Medicare Advantage, or, if you’d like to switch to a Medicare Advantage plan that includes SilverSneakers, call a qualified agent with the number below.
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What do I do if my plan drops SilverSneakers?
There seems to have been a recent trend of companies dropping coverage for SilverSneakers. Recently, several YMCAs across the country have discontinued their partnership with SilverSneakers, no longer allowing people with a SilverSneakers membership into the popular recreation center. Even more recently, Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) of Tennessee dropped its contract with SilverSneakers entirely.3
Luckily, Medicare beneficiaries aren’t necessarily out of luck. If you’re on a plan that drops SilverSneakers, your plan may replace it with a similar program such as Silver&Fit—which was the case for BCBS of Tennessee. Or, if you just want SilverSneakers, you may be able to switch to a plan that offers it. If you need help, consider speaking to a licensed agent.
1. SilverSneakers, “11 Burning Questions About SilverSneakers—Answered!”
2. SilverSneakers, “11 Burning Questions About SilverSneakers—Answered!”
3. Nashville Post, “BCBS Tennessee drops Tivity’s SilverSneakers“
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