For much of their adult lives, Tony and Nancy Chiu of New Jersey spent their days working and raising their three kids, leaving little time for much else, least of all regular visits to the gym.
Married for half a century after meeting as children in Vietnam, Tony and Nancy are now in their 70s and have settled into retirement in recent years, but nevertheless life continues to be busy. The main difference? Now it is on their terms.
“The ideal day for us is to go see the grandkids, or just go out and enjoy ourselves,” said Tony. “And we enjoy traveling to see different countries and different cultures. I am really enjoying my retirement, every minute of it.”
An ideal day for the Chius also almost always includes exercising at their local YMCA. They begin most days with a half hour on the treadmill, followed by a half hour on the stationary bike.
“We don’t do extreme exercise, but we have a healthy life because we keep up this routine and watch our diets,” said Tony.
For Nancy, who has diabetes and high blood pressure, these daily workouts are key to feeling better. “After going to the gym, I feel great,” said Nancy, who says walking up and down stairs is easier now. “It gives me a lot of energy. I feel like a young kid.”
Like many retirees, the couple lives on a fixed income, so they appreciate that their gym membership is available at no additional cost through Optum Fitness Advantage, a program offered by their UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage plan.
After launching in New Jersey and Washington in 2017, Optum Fitness Advantage is now available to eligible members in nine additional states: Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas (Austin, Houston and San Antonio) and Wisconsin. The program offers members the flexibility of joining a wide range of fitness clubs at no cost, including all the standard perks available at the participating gyms such as cardio equipment, weights, walking tracks, exercise classes, and even social and educational events. And for people who travel, the program’s benefits travel right along with them, allowing them to stick to their fitness routine at other participating fitness centers.
Participating gyms vary by state, but Life Time Fitness, Anytime Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness, Snap Fitness, LA Fitness and local YMCAs are all participating in 2018.
“We’ve been committed to growing our network to add locations not previously available to UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage members,” said Brett Sanford, senior product director at Optum, “and efforts to expand and build the most effective gym network for our members are ongoing.”
Research shows that the Chius’ experience with their daily YMCA visits is not unique. Regular exercise is one of the most important things older adults can do to benefit their health, improve their overall quality of life and help maintain their independence.
One study of 1,600 men and women between the ages of 70 and 89 found that those who participated in an exercise program over a two-year period were 28 percent less likely to become disabled (defined as losing the ability to walk independently) compared to a group that didn’t exercise. Another study found that seniors who visited a gym regularly formed social bonds that enhanced their emotional health.
Not surprisingly, the Chius have no intention of backing away from their fitness routine any time soon, as they’ve discovered that regular exercise is one of the keys to enjoying their retirement years just as much as their younger days.
Said Tony, “We plan to continue our exercise, watch our diets and hopefully prolong our life together for many, many more years to come.”
Plans are insured through UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or one of its affiliated companies, a Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract. Enrollment in the plan depends on the plan’s contract renewal with Medicare.
This information is not a complete description of benefits. Contact the plan for more information. Limitations, copayments, and restrictions may apply. Benefits, premium and/or copayments/coinsurance may change on January 1 of each year.
Participation in this program is voluntary. Consult your doctor prior to beginning an exercise program or making changes to your lifestyle or health care routine. Equipment and classes may vary by location. Availability of the Optum® Fitness Advantage program varies by plan/market. Refer to your Evidence of Coverage for more details.