How to Find a Gym for Seniors

Advice For Seniors

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senior friendly gym

If you like group exercise classes, be sure to find a gym that offers the classes that suit your schedule and interests.

Purposefully and intentionally moving your body is one of the best ways you can stay healthy, no matter your age. However, it can become more intimidating to walk into a gym or group fitness class if you are an older adult, even if you have had experience with physical exercise in the past. Fortunately, there are senior-friendly gyms out there. You just have to take some time to find a gym facility that meets your needs and budget.

Here are some things to consider when you search for a gym that you will feel safe at and that will inspire you to meet your health goals.

Exercise for Seniors: Finding A Gym

Finding a gym can start with a quick internet search for gyms near you. But your research shouldn’t end there. You can also ask for referrals from your physician, physical therapist, nutritionist, or friends in order to build your list of potential options. 

Don’t forget to add to your list by using the Age-Friendly Facilities and Services Locator put together by the International Council on Aging and the AARP. Simply add your city and state, or your zip code, to gain contact information for YMCAs, senior centers, gyms, and other recreation centers that are within a certain radius to your location.

Once you have a list of potential gyms, you can begin to narrow down your choices. First, start with location. If you know that you don’t want to travel more than 15 minutes to get your workout in, eliminate any options outside of that 15 minutes. Even the best gym at the best price will not make up for the time it takes you to drive there daily.

After you narrow your choices by location, you can eliminate other options based on what you want the gym to offer. If you’re an avid swimmer, for example, you won’t want to pay money for a gym that doesn’t have a pool. Similarly, if you know you can swim on certain days and hours, make sure the gyms on your list offer open swim times that match your schedule.

You can now take your shorter list and begin to schedule times to visit the facility to learn more about costs, programs available, rules, and membership amenities.

Senior-Friendly Gym Workout Programs

Some adults want to work out on their own and have the experience to do so. However, some seniors need the expertise of a trainer or the motivation that comes from being in a group fitness setting. If you are just getting started with your fitness routine or if you have always loved a group fitness approach, you should seek out gyms that offer programs and classes that will meet your needs.

For example, Silver Sneakers is a well-known senior-specific exercise program offered around the country. You can find Silver Sneakers classes at gyms, senior centers, and online. Each class is taught by certified instructors and is designed to be easy to adapt for a variety of abilities or challenges.

Similarly, the EnhanceFitness program is offered in more than 500 locations around the country. Each session is about one hour long and is taught by a specially trained instructor. Classes focus on flexibility, balance, aerobic activity, and strength building.

If you are looking at local recreation centers, senior centers, or YMCAs, you are wise to inquire about their older adult programs. These locations typically offer some type of group fitness programs to adults over the age of 55 that are included with a discounted gym membership fee.

Exercise for Seniors At The Gym

Exercising outdoors is a great way to connect to nature, but if the weather is not safe, heading to a gym is a great alternative.

Once you choose a gym, you can begin to think more about your daily workouts. For some, it might be walking, running, swimming, or biking on stationary bikes. For others, including targeted balance, strength, and flexibility exercises is important to reduce falls, lose weight, or build muscle.

Be sure to speak with your physician or physical therapist before beginning any exercise plan. You can also work with your gym’s personal training team to get inspired. Pay for a few introductory sessions so the trainer can show you routines and exercises on the equipment that you can then replicate moving forward.

For a well-rounded exercise program, focus on incorporating balance, strength, flexibility, and aerobic exercises throughout the week during your visits. This well-rounded approach can help reduce your risk of falls as well as increase your range of motion and mobility.

Safety at the Gym

Now that you are ready to start your exercise program and have spoken with your physician about how to do so safely, you can continue to decrease the risk of an emergency while at the gym by following any of these tips:

  • Be sure you are wearing appropriate clothing and shoes. Poorly fitting tennis shoes can cause a litany of issues, including plantar fasciitis, shin splints, and falls. Choose a pair of tennis shoes that fit you well, feature good traction, and support your ankles and arches.
  • Always come prepared. Never go to the gym without your water bottle. Stay hydrated throughout your session by taking small sips during breaks. Resist the urge to chug because it can cause your stomach to be upset. If you have low blood sugar issues, always pack a snack or bottle of juice in your gym bag so that you are prepared in case of a dip in blood sugar during or after your workout.
  • Tell someone your plans. If you like to exercise alone, it is wise to let someone know your regular workout routine. Sending a quick text to your daughter when you are headed into the gym, for example, can ensure that someone knows your location in case of an emergency or if they cannot get ahold of you.
  • Ask questions. If you aren’t sure how to adapt an exercise for your ability level, ask someone. Personal trainers and team members are there to show you how to make any exercise safer and more accessible.
  • Look for specialized classes or opportunities. Some gyms offer beginner classes to introduce clients to weight machines or devices. Some gyms offer classes geared to people who might have special challenges. Keep your eyes peeled and take advantage of a class if it suits you.
  • Wear your mobile personal emergency response pendant. Even if the gym you attend is well-staffed, you want to be sure that you can get immediate assistance in case you need it. Your pendant can be worn comfortably during workouts as well as in the shower. 

Cost of Membership 

Costs of gym memberships vary greatly from city to city, gym to gym. Some gyms offer monthly memberships starting at $10 while others feature memberships that go well above $100 monthly. Monthly average fees are approximately $40, which might be a good place to start when you are budgeting for a membership. Do your research to see what options fit into your budget as well as which options offer more amenities that are worth the extra cost. Be sure to factor in your Life Alert cost as well when you are budgeting for other healthy aging options. 

For example, you might pay less for a gym membership that takes a no-frills approach. However, if you like to rest in a sauna after a hard workout or prefer a gym that offers more group fitness classes that match your personal schedule, you might be willing to pay more money for that membership.

Ways to Save on a Gym Membership

There are a few ways to offset gym membership costs. The first is to inquire if they have a senior citizen discount. Many gyms offer a small discount for older adults, but the amount can add up quickly to save you quite a bit of money over the course of a year or two.

Next, ask if there are different levels (and costs) of membership. You might want to only take group fitness classes, for example, and not pay for using the equipment. Or, you might want to only use equipment and not take fitness classes. This could affect your pricing.

Look for Groupons or other coupons and discount codes online. You might also be lucky to find a gym running a special around the first of the year, in the spring, or in the fall. It never hurts to ask an employee if there are any special discounts that can be applied to your account.

Speak with your physician and physical therapist to see if they have any referral codes or discount codes to offer. Some gyms work to partner with senior-centered healthcare agencies and offer discounts for referrals.

See if there is any discount for automatic payments monthly. If you are comfortable with setting up monthly deductions from your bank account, you might find that you save 5-15% each month.

Finally, check your Medicare and insurance coverage. Some gyms offer discounts to Medicare or insurance users, while some plans will contribute to a monthly fee.

Alternatives To The Gym

Of course, you don’t have to pay for a gym membership in order to intentionally move your body and build your endurance, flexibility, and balance. You can always find new ways to get moving and meet your goals.

If you live where the weather is nice, head outside for a walk, run, or bike. Most physicians recommend walking as the best exercise option because you can do it almost anywhere and there are many benefits.

You can also choose to work out at home, especially if you are self-motivated. Try online videos or work with your physical therapist to develop exercises you can do at home on your own with a few bands or weights.

No matter where you choose to get active, you are doing a big service to your physical and mental health. We are cheering you on!