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Communities and health care facilities that offer low cost opportunities for physical activity can contribute to older adults’ goals for “aging in place.” More than 70 agencies and organizations in Washington State and over 500 in the nation offer EnhanceFitness classes for older adults. Two health care systems, including Group Health in Western Washington, offer free access to EnhanceFitness classes as a health care benefit to Medicare Advantage members. And the national Y (YUSA) has recently licensed the program to make it available throughout local Ys nationwide.
EnhanceFitness was developed nearly 20 years ago by Senior Services in Seattle, working in conjunction with the University of Washington Health Promotion Research Center and the Group Health Cooperative. From the time it was piloted at the Northshore Senior Center in Bothell, Washington, evaluation showed that the group-based program improved the wellness of participants. Repeated three times a week, the hour-long program involves flexibility and balance training, along with aerobic and strength training sequences. Certified instructors lead the classes that boost energy and elevate the mood of participants.
“EnhanceFitness helps people stay independent,” says program director Susan Snyder of Senior Services in Seattle. “The best marketing comes from the testimonials of participants.” Recently Snyder learned that two travel-loving people in their 70s credited EnhanceFitness for their taking on greater physical challenges during their trips. “We know that baby boomers will value this program and many will be attracted to the service opportunity to become licensed trainers,” she says.
While testimonials are valuable, the thing that sets EnhanceFitness apart from other physical activity offerings for older adults is the fact that it has been studied via randomized control trials, with proven results. Published studies demonstrate the program’s impact on the function and health of participants, as well as the health care cost differences among participants and non-participants. Due to the long term success of EnhanceFitness, agencies have awarded the success of the program including the National Council on Aging and the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Snyder is working on making EnhanceFitness much more widely available in Washington and throughout the US. Also, she is working closely with the licensors for other evidence-based programs on a strategic plan to position their programs for national distribution. This plan holds promise for bringing this low cost opportunity for physical activity to increasingly diverse settings and serving an ever-wider audience.
Published studies on EnhanceFitness.
Featured: September 2012
Community centers, senior centers and other settings
Statewide and nation-wide