Medicare fitness classes linked to $2k+ reduction in annual healthcare costs per participant

Kelly Gooch - Print  | 

Participation in Medicare group fitness classes leads to decreased healthcare costs, suggests a study published in Health Behavior and Policy Review.

For the study, researchers examined healthcare costs for people who participated in SilverSneakers, a community fitness program that is free for older Americans with qualifying Medicare plans. Researchers examined Medicare Advantage claims data compiled between January 2009 and June 2014, as well as SilverSneakers 2010-13 annual participant survey data. Researchers compared healthcare costs over a one-year period for people who exclusively attended SilverSneakers classes for group exercise and beneficiaries with similar coverage who did not attend the classes. Researchers compared 149 SilverSneakers participants with the same number of nonparticipants.

The study found SilverSneakers group exercise participants saved $2,144 in healthcare costs over a one-year period compared to nonparticipants. Participants' healthcare costs increased $515 during that time, while nonparticipants' healthcare costs increased $2,659.

The study also found participants saved an additional $22 in follow-up healthcare costs with each SilverSneakers group exercise class they went to.

"The results of this study support prior research around the healthcare cost savings of older adult physical activity programs, such as SilverSneakers, in which regular program participants show lower healthcare costs at follow-up compared to nonprogram users," concluded the study's authors. "The current results, however, extend previous findings by examining how group exercise classes, particularly SilverSneakers classes, affect healthcare costs. This provides important insight into how older adult exercise classes are affecting healthcare costs and examining the impact that these classes have on healthcare claims across the older adult population."



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