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Of Sneakers and Savings

Of Sneakers and Savings

If you’re a patient of mine or a faithful reader of this blog, you know how passionate I am about improving your life through healthy eating.

But eating well is just one of the four pillars of healthy longevity -- and they are all equally important. And the pillar I find my patients often struggle with is physical activity.  Which is a big problem because whether you’re talking high blood pressure, high cholesterol, excess weight, depression, cancer, or dementia – people who exercise regularly do better.

And not only that, active individuals end up spending less on healthcare.  A recent study showed that among seniors, Silver Sneakers participants spent 26% less on health care annually, a savings of over $800 per year, as their peers who weren’t in SilverSneakers - mostly because they didn’t go to the hospital as much. The study was not peer-reviewed, but past research on similar programs for older adults has shown similar significant cost savings.

If you’re not familiar with SilverSneakers, it’s a community fitness program designed specifically for older Americans. The program was founded in 1992 and is available through many Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare Supplement carriers, and group retiree plans.

The program also proves that it’s never too late to get active and that it’s easy to get started!  You can see if you are eligible for a free memebership by visiting the SilverSneaker website, the classes are designed for the 65+ set, they have tons of locations around the country, and if you’re not comfortable getting back to a gym in person, they even offer over 50 live classes per week via Zoom, plus a stock of videos you can watch and follow anytime.

In communities where people live long well, physical activity happens on its own. Those folks don’t have to think about it. They’re fishermen, farmers, they live in little villages where you have to walk up and down a couple of hills to see your neighbor. They move their bodies because their life demands it.

For most of us, it's sitting that happens on its own and all our life demands is a comfortable chair!  So we have to make a conscious effort to move.  Studies that have looked at the health effects of sitting have concluded that to make up for a typical day’s worth of being sedentary you need at least 1 hour of aerobic physical activity.  Remember, you don’t need to train like an Ironman to reap benefits from exercise - or exercise all day long to gain the healthy longevity advantage. You don’t even need a SilverSneaker membership or do all the activity all at once.  Walking, biking, even dancing (my favorite) all count.  And an hour total per day is enough to yield all sorts of health benefits.

Of course...you know what all this means. There’s no excuse not to exercise...so go lace up those sneakers! (Any color will do.) 

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