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Maximize your Medigap 'fitness benefit'

If you have a Medicare Advantage or Medigap

If you have a Medicare Advantage or Medigap plan, chances are you have a "fitness benefit" as part of your coverage. This means you can sign up for free basic membership at a participating local gym or health club. Photo Credit: iStock

What's your excuse for not joining a gym or fitness club? Too costly? Worried there won't be people your age? Intimidated by unfamiliar equipment? For many seniors, these excuses shouldn't apply.

If you have a Medicare Advantage or Medigap plan, chances are you have a "fitness benefit" as part of your coverage. This means you can sign up for free basic membership at a participating local gym or health club. Be aware, traditional Medicare (Parts A & B) does not have a fitness benefit and will not cover membership to a gym or health club. Those with Medicare Advantage or Medigap plans can tell if they have the fitness benefit by checking their Explanation of Benefits statement or calling their insurance provider.

Several companies make it easy for eligible Medicare Advantage or Medigap recipients to enroll in a fitness club, and, more important, find the right facility. Silver&Fit (silverandfit.com) and SilverSneakers (silversneakers.com) both contract with local fitness centers to ensure they have services and programs tailored for seniors.

"Most of them have group fitness classes, some of those clubs offer specific classes geared toward older adults," says Brett Hanson, vice president of fitness network management for Silver&Fit. Hanson says 48 fitness facilities in Nassau and Suffolk currently are part of the Silver&Fit network. The average age of a Silver&Fit member is 72, he says. There is no fee to use either of the two websites to sign up with a facility.

At the Silver&Fit website, you can find a gym based on your preferences, for example one that caters exclusively to women, or clubs that feature aerobics, flexibility training, dance fitness classes or a range of other activities.

For those who don't feel they're ready for a fitness club, there are alternatives. "We provide them with the option of a home-fitness kit," Hanson says. There are 17 kits available, featuring activities such as yoga, tai chi, chair dancing and high-intensity workouts. There is also a kit that offers exercise routines for the bedridden. Each kit contains a DVD and booklet. If your Medicare Advantage or Medigap plan includes the fitness option, the kits are fully covered.

You can get more information and fitness tips at Silver&Fit's Facebook page, facebook.com/SilverandFit.

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