Five Low-Cost Ways to Stay Active and Healthy

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Making health a priority as you age is important because good health allows you to stay active, independent and in control. Many health plans, including Medicare, offer free or low-cost benefits and programs to help you stay active and healthy. Here are five ways you can use your health plan to gain optimal health.

Exercise Regularly

The older you get, the more exercise remains an important way to stay healthy. Low-impact exercises, including walking for a few minutes a day, can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, strengthen bones and muscles, improve your mood and mental health, and improve your ability to do daily activities and prevent falls. For those with chronic health conditions, it is important to work with a health professional in finding the right exercise for you.

Many health plans include discounts for fitness programs. For example, STRS Ohio’s Basic Plans include discount memberships to gyms in the GlobalFit network. Medical Mutual also provides discounts at Curves, while AultCare PPO provides free access to Aultman fitness facilities when participating in Aultman’s Weight Management program.

Some Medicare plans, such as STRS Ohio’s Aetna Medicare Plan and Paramount Elite, include memberships for SilverSneakers, a fitness and wellness program for Medicare-eligible adults that includes free access to gyms, fitness classes and online workout programs tailored to individual fitness levels. For more information, visit the SilverSneakers website or download the SilverSneakers GO app to your mobile device. Other Medicare plans, such as STRS Ohio’s AultCare PrimeTime Health Plan, include the Silver&Fit Exercise and Healthy Aging Program that provides free access to participating fitness facilities. Please visit the Silver&Fit website for details.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is important for overall health and can help you prevent and control many diseases and conditions. If you are overweight, you are at higher risk of developing serious health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, breathing problems and certain cancers. Many health plans, including STRS Ohio’s Aetna Medicare Plan, Basic Plans and AultCare PPO, offer discounts on weight management programs. For more information, please contact your plan administrator.

Get Preventive Health Screenings

Medical testing for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and many cancers are available at no cost for people with Medicare Part B, most group health plans and all plans available through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Many tests are available annually, including wellness visits. You can also get free flu, Hepatitis B and pneumococcal shots as a part of preventive services. All STRS Ohio health plans offer specific preventive services at no cost. For a full list of these preventive and screening services, contact your health plan administrator or visit

Stop Smoking

More than 8% of people age 65 or older are smokers, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Smoking is one of the leading causes of cancer, strokes and heart failure, and can lead to a host of health problems. The good thing is, once someone stops smoking, results can be immediate. Twenty minutes after your last cigarette, heart rates begin to drop; two hours later, your blood pressure normalizes; and 24 hours later, your risk of coronary artery disease is lowered. Some health plans offer smoking cessation programs that can help tobacco users give up the habit for good. If you smoke, check with your health plan or primary care physician for assistance with smoking cessation.

Don’t Forget Mental Wellness

Older adults often experience mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, and they are often overlooked because they can coincide with other late life problems. Other mental health issues, including Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, substance abuse and even insomnia can take a major toll on quality of life in older age, and can contribute to other chronic health issues. Mental health treatment ranges from counseling and psychotherapy to yoga, art and other group activities. Talking to your primary care physician about feelings of increased sadness, anxiety or feeling overwhelmed is the first step.