- Published in Population Health Management -

Impact of a Senior Fitness Program on Measures of Physical and Emotional Health and Functioning

Author(s): Brent Hamar, DDS, MPH; Carter R. Coberley, PhD; James E. Pope, MD; and Elizabeth Y. Rula, PhD

Population Health ManagementThe SilverSneakers fitness program is a health plan benefit for Medicare beneficiaries that provides older adults with fitness center membership, customized group exercise classes, and a supportive social environment that promotes socialization among participants. This study evaluated the impact of the SilverSneakers program on physical and emotional health and activities of daily living (ADLs). A quasi-experimental retrospective analysis compared annual survey responses from SilverSneakers members (treatment N=5586) to a matched national random sample of Medicare Advantage organization beneficiaries (comparison N=22,344) in Cohort 10 of the Medicare Health Outcomes Survey. Matching was performed based on 6 demographic and 6 disease status variables. Survey responses from 2007 and 2009 were evaluated using categorical and logistic regression analysis. The treatment group showed significantly better physical and emotional health and lower impairment in both 2007 and 2009, less impairment for 4 of 6 ADLs in 2007, and all 6 in 2009, and a higher average number of days of good health within the prior month for both years. Three-year longitudinal analyses indicated a significantly more favorable survey response trend for the treatment group for nearly all measures of health and ADLs. Members who exercised less frequently had poorer health and functioning. Overall, participation in the SilverSneakers program was associated with more favorable overall physical and social/emotional health status and fewer activity impairments, suggesting that the provision of senior-oriented group fitness programs may be a valuable approach to improve quality of life and reduce the burden associated with declining health and functioning as older adults age. (Population Health Management 2013;16:364–372)

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Topics: Well-Being Health Conditions Older Populations Performance/Productivity Peer Reviewed Health Plan & Health System Community Well-Being