Kenneth P. Kell & Elizabeth Y. Rula
Springer International Publishing, 2019


Purpose: To evaluate whether health-related quality-of-life measures can be improved in a senior population by increasing participation in an exercise program.

Methods: The study involved a nationwide sample of adults aged 65 and older (mean age 73.2 in first study year) who participated in the SilverSneakers fitness program between 2010 and 2016. We analyzed data from 7 years of program participation records and annual participant surveys. Study members completed ≥ 2 annual surveys (n = 46,564). Participation frequency change was measured by average visits per week (AVPW) to a fitness center from the initial survey year to follow-up years. Quality-of-life measures included the 12-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-12), Self-Rated Health, and BRFSS Healthy Days measures. Longitudinal analyses evaluated whether an increase in visit frequency among active members of SilverSneakers was associated with change in quality-of-life measures, controlling for age and gender.

Results: Participants with more frequent visits (higher AVPW) had better SF-12 Physical and Mental Component Scores, Self-Rated Health Status, and fewer physically and mentally unhealthy days (p < 0.001 for all measures); furthermore, participants who increased AVPW longitudinally saw improvements in all outcome measures (p < 0.001).

Conclusion: SilverSneakers participation frequency is associated with higher quality of life for seniors.

Quality of Life Research

Key Takeaways:

  • This 7-year longitudinal study of nearly 50,000 people tested whether increasing participation in SilverSneakers impacted 5 health-related quality of life measures in the domains of physical and mental health.
  • More frequent SilverSneakers visits is associated with higher physical and mental health for members across all study measures.
  • SilverSneakers members who increased their average number of SilverSneakers visits per week over time had significant improvements in self-rated health, increased SF-12 scores for physical and mental health, and a decreased number of unhealthy days.
  • For example, an increase of less than 1 visit per week on average to at least 3 visits per week translated to a reduction of more than 1.4 physically unhealthy days and 0.5 mentally unhealthy days per month.
  • Efforts to increase SilverSneakers participation can significantly improve health among seniors over time.