SilverSneakers builds balance, flexibility and friendships

August 7, 2013 Denise Pinkney

Going to the gym can be intimating at any age. All the fancy weight machines. And people who look like they could be on the cover of a fitness magazine.

Even so, LoAnn Dybing, Arlyce Widmer and Ethel Wischer aren't ones to shy away from the gym. Last fall, they were excited to learn their Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota Medicare supplement plan offered SilverSneakers – an exercise program geared to help older adults be active and healthy.

Arlyce Widmer, Ethel Wischer and LoAnn Dybing are regulars in the Silver Sneakers class.

The three ladies had met through exercising together at a facility in south Fargo and when that facility closed, they looked for a new one that participated in SilverSneakers. They are now regulars at the 9 a.m. SilverSneakers class at a Family Wellness in Fargo.

"For some people, the idea of gym is that it's just for young people," LoAnn says. "But that's not so."

The Cleveland Clinic's Women's Cardiovascular Center says you can be 65, 75 or even 85 and start an exercise routine.

SilverSneakers helps build flexibility, balance and strength in older adults. "The SilverSneakers class really takes care of you from head to toe," Arlyce says.  "You can work with weights, elastic bands and special SilverSneakers exercise balls, according to your ability. Trained instructors tell how to adapt the class to your level."

Ethel regards the SilverSneakers program as a gift. "The bottom line is that nobody is going to take care of me but me," Ethel says. "We need to be aware of that and take advantage of the programs available to us."

What's more, when Ethel and her husband visited family in Seattle, they took their SilverSneakers card with them and were able to work out there. While Ethel enjoys taking the SilverSneakers classes, her husband prefers to work out elsewhere at Family Wellness. SilverSneakers saves the couple about $85 a month in what they would pay for gym membership.

What is SilverSneakers?
With SilverSneakers, seniors who have a Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota Medicare supplement plan receive a "free" membership at a fitness center that participates in the program. You can use the equipment and take classes, including SilverSneakers. You can look for the nearest SilverSneakers location.

If you can't find a nearby SilverSneakers location, you can enroll in SilverSneakers Steps, a home fitness program.  You'll receive a fitness kit geared to general fitness, strength, walking or yoga. What's more, you can create online exercise and nutrition plans, track your fitness progress and find health articles and recipes.