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Get Fit For Free

February 10, 2014
By LINDA COMINS - Life Editor , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Even as the winter weather remains frightful, some boomers and seniors in the area have an extra incentive to help them remain fit and healthy through indoor exercise.

SilverSneakers, an exercise program designed for older adults, is offered to those who are eligible for Medicare or to certain group retirees. This program provides a free fitness center membership to any participating location across the country.

In the Upper Ohio Valley, facilities participating in the SilverSneakers initiative include Wheeling Hospital's Howard Long Wellness Center, the CentreTown Fitness gym and the Chambers YMCA, all in Wheeling. Officials of those facilities said retirees should contact their insurance carrier to determine whether they are covered for SilverSneakers.

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Janet L. Jobes takes advantage of the SilverSneakers program at Wheeling Hospital’s Howard Long Wellness Center. Open to those who are eligible for Medicare or to certain group retirees, SilverSneakers provides a free fitness center membership to many participating locations across the country. The program helps seniors take greater control of their health by encouraging physical activity and offering social events.

"The program helps seniors take greater control of their health by encouraging physical activity and offering social events," said Joe Slavik, manager of the Howard Long Wellness Center.

"This gives opportunities for seniors to stay healthy and independent, as well as expand their social network and sharpen their minds."

At the Howard Long Wellness Center, the benefits for SilverSneakers members include:

"Research indicates that regular physical activity, such as participating in SilverSneakers group exercise classes, is beneficial to preventing and helping treat symptoms of certain chronic conditions," Slavik said. "Exercise can positively impact heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, obesity and other conditions, as well as enhance feelings of well-being and reduce feelings of depression and anxiety."

Those joining SilverSneakers are assisted in creating a plan to help assess their health, choose their goals and track their fitness.

"Another great advantage to SilverSneakers is that members can work out or take classes when they're away from home because when they travel, so does their membership," Slavik said. "They can use any participating location in the nation and share the SilverSneakers experience with new friends who are also interested in a healthy lifestyle."

For more information on SilverSneakers or any of the many programs at the Howard Long Wellness Center, call 304-242-9355.

Laurie Labishak, vice president of marketing for Ohio Valley Health Services & Education, said the SilverSneakers fitness program at CentreTown Fitness is open to members of participating Medicare health plans and Medicare supplement carriers.

At CentreTown Fitness in Center Wheeling, SilverSneakers benefits include:

For more information, seniors can call CentreTown Fitness at 304-234-6540.

The Chambers YMCA in Elm Grove presents SilverSneakers exercise classes and SilverSplash aquatic classes.

Tammy Paree, instructor for the exercise classes, said SilverSneakers sessions are offered from 11 a.m. to noon every Tuesday and Thursday. SilverSplash takes place in the Y's pool from 11 a.m. to noon Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

While participation in SilverSneakers at the YMCA was as high as 18 in December (after a special promotion), the classes usually attract eight or nine people currently, Paree said. At least 10 people are involved in each SilverSplash event, she said.

"SilverSneakers is a fun, energizing program that helps older adults take great control of their health by encouraging physical activity and having fun," Paree commented. "SilverSneakers is for the adults who want to improve their strength, flexibility, balance, eye-hand coordination and endurance."

Through Paree's classes, the program provides "a great way to meet others to socialize while listening to music from the '50s and '60s," she said. The playlist for SilverSneakers sessions include tunes by popular artists such as Frank Sinatra and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, she added.

Many classes are offered at the YMCA such as Zumba, cycling, floor aerobics, cardio-strength, boot camp, Pilates, yoga, ball bands bells, kettlebells, interval training, water aerobics and step aerobics, Paree said.

The YMCA has 16 qualified, cardio-pulmonary resuscitation-certified instructors. Marcie Lehrke is the director of all aerobic programs at the Chambers YMCA and Jill Paul serves as director of aquatic programs.

SilverSneakers members have access to conditioning classes, exercise equipment, pool, sauna and other amenities. For more information on the fitness programs at the YMCA, call 304-242-8086.

Paree said the three insurance companies in West Virginia that cover the SilverSneakers program are Highmark Blue Cross-Blue Shield of West Virginia, Highmark Health Insurance and Humana.

Members can find other SilverSneakers locations, listed by zip code, online at

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