Objectives: Physical activity levels are low among older adults. Many Medicare members have access to low-cost programs including Silver Sneakers (SS) and EnhanceFitness (EF) at no additional cost, however, utilization of these programs is low. We aimed to compare characteristics of people using SS and EF to nonusers of these programs to better understand the characteristics of these 2 populations and to guide future physical activity promotion program design.
Study design: Cross-sectional.
Methods: We used 2010 and 2011 electronic health records including demographic, health condition, Charlson comorbidity score, healthcare cost and utilization, and SS and EF program utilization data from 37,492 Medicare members from a large integrated health care system. Models were fit using logistic and negative binomial regression adjusting for age, gender, race, ethnicity, BMI category, and primary care clinic location.
Results: Compared with nonusers (N = 30,733; 82%), SS users (N = 6200; 16.5%) were younger and less likely to be male, obese, or have diabetes or cardiovascular disease; they also had lower Charlson scores and fewer hospital admissions than nonusers. EF users (N = 721; 2%) were older, were less likely to be male, had lower Charlson scores, and had fewer hospital admissions compared to nonusers.
Conclusions: Low-cost, evidence-based physical activity programs are vastly underused by Medicare members. Our data suggest that targeting more chronically ill and obese older adults for physical activity programs might help improve the reach of existing evidence-based programs.