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Active seniors curb health care costs
Date:2/14/2008

Group Health seniors are not only sweating to the oldies in local health clubs. They are also keeping health care costs down, according to a study by researchers at Group Health and the University of Washington (UW). The study appears in the January 2008 issue of the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

The research found long-term total health care costs grew more slowly for older Group Health patients who regularly used their "SilverSneakers" health club benefit. Group Health members age 65 and older can choose either or both of two activity programs: EnhanceFitness®; or SilverSneakers, which includes access to a health club and free physical activity classes geared to seniors' needs.

"Physical activity can help seniors improve their balance to prevent falls; boost cardiovascular health to prevent heart attacks; and improve overall metabolism to help delay diabetes onset and complication of diabetes," said study co-author Dr. James LoGerfo, a professor of medicine and health services at the UW and an affiliate investigator at the Group Health Center for Health Studies.

The researchers studied nearly 5,000 senior Group Health patients who participated in SilverSneakers. More than 9,000 control patients were matched to participants by age and sex. By year two, compared with control participants, SilverSneakers participants had significantly fewer inpatient admissions and lower total health care costs.

Lorraine and Jack Swisher of Bellevue are Group Health members and regulars at the Bellevue Family YMCA SilverSneakers. Age 73 and 75, respectively, they both have chronic conditions and believe their increased physical activity has let them stay healthy and save their funds to travel to Antarctica, snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, and go on a recent safari in Africa. Granted, few seniors are quite as active—or well-traveled—as the Swishers, but the researchers said that all people can benefit from regular physical activity.'/>"/>

Contact: Katie McCarthy
mccarthy.kx@ghc.org
206-793-6552
Group Health Cooperative Center for Health Studies
Source:Eurekalert

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