Get back into the game: How SilverSneakers could help you get active again

Apr 20, 2012, 8:17 a.m.

If you're mulling over the notion of getting yourself back into shape or taking up an exercise routine to strengthen your bones and muscles, there's no better time than now to act. These days, fitness center amenities are nothing like they were 20 years ago, and there are some truly wonderful programs that you can take advantage of that can get you through the door to a number of high quality gyms for free. Here's how.

The 411 on SilverSneakers

SilverSneakers is a program that you can enroll in through Medicare or a group retiree health plan that connects you to a vast network of fitness centers across the country. By being an enrollee of SilverSneakers, you can get a gym membership absolutely free of charge -- a savings worth as much as $600 per year, considering that the average cost of gym membership is around $50 per month, per person. Double that for you and your spouse, and you could save $1200 per year.

What's the first step?

Your first step to taking advantage of SilverSneakers is to become a card-carrying member. The good news is, you may already have access to the SilverSneakers program and not even know it, if you've got Medicare or are receiving health benefits through a group retirement plan. To find out if you're eligible, just go to the SilverSneakers health plan locator and punch in your state of residency. If your medical benefits plan is on the list, you're good to go. Next, you'll need to contact your health care provider to get your SilverSneakers membership card assigned to you.

I have my SilverSneakers membership card -- what's next?

Once you have your membership card in hand, you simply go to the closest participating gym and get cracking. To find where the nearest participating gym is located, just visit the SilverSneakers location finder, type in your ZIP Code and the types of fitness center amenities you're looking for, and you'll be given a list of nearby locations.

Additional membership benefits

The best thing about being a SilverSneakers member is that you don't have to worry about how to choose a gym -- all of the gyms that participate in the program are top-notch establishments with the latest and greatest fitness center amenities designed for exercisers of all ages and all fitness levels. Even if you don't live within close range of a participating gym, you may still be able to take part by taking advantage of SilverSneakers Steps. Enrolling in this part of the program will get you a free exercise DVD, resistance bands for working out, and additional instructional material to help turn your home into your own private fitness gym.

With all of the various tools at your disposal, there's never been a better time to decide to start exercising. Before you do, however, be sure to pay your doctor a visit for a full physical so that he or she can determine what level of exercises are safe for you to take on. Once your doctor's given you the okay to begin working out, the rest is up to you. Fortunately, with a free fitness membership and access to some of the best gyms in the country where you can mingle with folks just like yourself, you won't have to traverse the sometimes lonesome road to better health alone.

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