SilverSneakers. Put ’em on and let’s get moving!

When I first started the Catching Health blog back in 2011, I had a lot of extra time on my hands. I was also spending way too much of it sitting in front of my computer. St. Joseph’s College of Maine is in my neck of the woods and I discovered that because I’m a graduate (’77), I could participate in their fitness classes at a reduced rate. I could also use their pool, their gym, the indoor walking track, outdoor trails, why even their climbing wall.

I couldn’t come up with any excuses other than procrastination and laziness, so I decided to do water aerobics and loved it. Part of it was the ambiance. When it’s out, the sun streams through the windows onto the water in the pool. I would often spend a few minutes treading water in a beam of sunlight.

As I got busier, I confess I stopped going. As you know if you read the blog, I’ve been working out with a strength coach, Andy Wight, for more than two years now. I’m going back to St. Joe’s, though. Not ditching Andy. Adding a new class that the college is now offering. It’s called SilverSneakers.

I attended an introductory session and not only appreciated the workout but also ran into some old friends. Like Dot. For a year or so several years ago, she and I used to get up at the crack of dawn and meet at a fitness class offered by a local adult ed program. And there we were, reunited!

Silver Sneakers class
Photo by Evan Loignon

In case you’ve never heard of it before, SilverSneakers was founded in 1992 by Mary Swanson. Her dad had suffered a heart attack and his recovery included exercise. She couldn’t find a class suited to where he was in life and so, she created one. Her program is now run by Tivity Health, which provides fitness and wellness programs around the country.

Silver Sneakers class and instructors
Photo by Evan Loignon

The people leading the classes at St. Joseph’s College are specially trained, explained Jenna Chase, who is the wellness coordinator.

They go through a specific fitness certification process through SilverSneakers. They’re trained first in the basics and then in muscle conditioning. One of our instructors is also trained in building and maintaining stability to help prevent falls. Another is trained in SilverSneakers classic, which is a little bit of everything, some cardio,
strength, and flexibility. We offer three classes a week — Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday at 11 — and each class has a different focus. You can do any or all of the classes.

For some people, the classes will be free. The way it works is, the program is a benefit for many people who have a Medicare Advantage health plan, a Medicare Supplement plan, or a group retiree plan.

If it’s offered as a benefit in your plan, there is no cost. If it’s not, you can still participate, but for a fee. And you don’t have to be on Medicare to join a class. There were definitely people under 65 in the class I attended.

For more information about SilverSneakers, in general, or to find other programs around the country, visit silversneakers.com. For information about the program at St. Joseph’s College, here’s the link to its website.

The class I attended was 45-minutes of drills to help strengthen and condition muscles. You can set your own pace and adapt as needed. For instance, you might choose to hold onto the back of a chair for some movements (or not) or lift heavier or lighter weights or none at all.

After the class, I got some additional exercise running around interviewing people about why they were there and would they come back. Here are their responses:

I need to do some muscle building. I go out and walk and I go to yoga classes, but you reach an age (I’m almost 70) where they say you really need to build muscle. So I thought I’d try this out. I loved it. I’ll be back.

I’m here to get some strength training. I’m not retired, so I can only come once a week. I was actually booted out of my local rec program because I could only make it there two days a week.

I want to get the core going, you know. I’ll be back.

I think you’ll get what you want out of the program. I’ll probably try it again.

I loved it. I’m 53 so it was a little slower pace for me, but it was perfect because I have a shoulder that is bad. The muscle action was good for my shoulder. I think it’s great. I will be back.

I thought it was very good. It involves just about every muscle you have. I enjoyed it very much.

I started the program in the middle of February and a lot of balance is coming back. When they have you do two things at once, I am beginning to actually do them.

I thought it was great because we worked on mobility and strength.

I enjoyed it. I’ve been to SilverSneakers in the past and it was good, but I really liked this one. She had a good variety. I’ll definitely be back.

I plan to go back, as well. With my sister in tow. We rocked working out together in our 30s and we can still rock it a few decades later. And besides getting some exercise, we get to spend quality time together. Just another benefit.

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Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane was the health reporter on WCSH 6. Before that, a radiation therapist at Maine Medical Center and after, Manager of Marketing/PR at Mercy Hospital. She now hosts and produces the Catching Health podcast and writes the award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.