Join a gym, lose weight.
Sounds like a great plan, but we all know that finding our way to a healthier weight isn’t quite that simple. It’s a familiar story to many of us: We feel a rush of motivation to get fit, sign up at a nearby gym, and go faithfully four or five days a week, only to give up altogether a few weeks later when the numbers on the scale haven’t budged.
But what if part of the problem lies in our motivation for hitting the gym in the first place? We often zero in on weight loss as the primary goal or benefit of exercise. But joining a fitness club and, most importantly, using that membership, can reap a host of benefits that are equally as important as the number on the scale.
If your daily routine often leads you everywhere but to the treadmill or the weight bench, read on to learn about some of the often overlooked advantages of joining a gym.
1. You’ve got a (workout) friend in me.
The social aspect of joining a gym can (and should) be a great motivator. According to the United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings Senior Report, social isolation is one of the biggest health risks for older adults. That’s partly because it’s often associated with other health problems, including high blood pressure and inflammation. Social isolation is a serious enough issue that it even increases your risk of death.
But even if you don’t consider yourself socially isolated, you could probably benefit from a broader social circle. It can be hard to maintain friendships as we get older, and our networks narrow from life changes like retirement and empty nesting.
In a study analyzing the impact of group fitness programs on the mental welfare of older adults, results validated that many participants felt positive social connections with the members and gym employees with whom they interacted. Finding like-minded gym-goers can create social connections you might not have found elsewhere. And everything’s more fun with a friend, so you just might find it easier to get through that Zumba class if you have a pal sweating alongside you.
2. Brain muscles get love, too.
Aerobic exercise has the potential to improve the performance of an aging brain. Researchers have linked lower physical fitness to weaker white matter in the brain – a problem that can impact memory and cognitive reasoning. By making exercise a priority, you could improve your brain health, putting you on the path to many more years of fond memories with family and friends (possibly those you’ve met at the gym!).
3. Run (or walk) away from future health complications.
We know we can’t fend off the realities of aging forever, but maintaining a consistent exercise routine can help prevent many common issues that often plague us in our older years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regular physical activity can reduce your risk of conditions including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain kinds of cancer, and it can also slow the loss of bone density that comes with age.
4. Are you hearing all of these great benefits? Exercise could help!
Research has shown that cardiovascular fitness can improve hearing – especially in older adults. Exercise increases blood flow throughout your entire body, including to your head and your ears, which helps keep your ears functioning well. So if you’re worried about your hearing fading, don’t discount your fitness routine as a factor in keeping those ears sharp.
5. By hitting the gym, you might also be padding your pocketbook.
In addition to the health benefits, regular exercise might also come with some financial benefits by helping to avoid the significant costs often associated with intensive health issues, especially when those issues require hospitalizations or specialty prescription medications.
And if you need even more of a financial incentive, consider that you might be able to join a gym without owing a monthly membership fee depending on the type of Medicare coverage you have. Many Medicare Advantage plans include a gym membership at no added cost. So if you’ve been avoiding signing up for a gym membership in part because of the monthly membership fees that come with it, you might no longer have that excuse.
Clearly you have much more to gain from living a physically fit life than just a lower number on the scale. If you’re ready to get started, check to see if your Medicare Advantage plan offers a gym membership as part of your benefits. And if it doesn’t, this is the time of year when you can switch to a new plan that offers benefits you value. You can explore Medicare Advantage plans in your area at UHCMedicareHealthPlans.com. Or check out the Plan Finder on Medicare.gov.
Plans are insured through UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or one of its affiliated companies. For Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plans: A Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract and a Medicare-approved Part D sponsor. Enrollment in these plans depends on the plan’s contract renewal with Medicare.