The answer isn’t a simple yes or no. Whether you can count on Medicare to cover these costs depends on what type of coverage you have, but you do have options.
Staying fit is beneficial at any age. Regular physical activity helps all older adults, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reinforcing the long-known belief that exercise positively affects our physical health and our emotional well-being.
While the way to do that is through a mix of aerobic activity, strength training and maintaining flexibility, these workouts often require specific equipment that’s available only at gyms or fitness centers. And those memberships are pricey.
Original Medicare (Parts A and B) doesn’t cover gym memberships, but it does cover some fitness-related benefits in special situations. For example, Medicare covers:
- Group sessions for prevention of diabetes and programs to help you manage your condition, change your diet, exercise more and control your weight.
- Weight-loss counseling for people with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, which includes obesity screening, a dietary assessment and behavioral therapy designed to help you lose weight by focusing on diet and exercise.
Does Medicare Advantage pay for gym memberships?
If you opt for a Medicare Advantage plan through a private insurer instead of original Medicare, coverage for gym memberships and fitness centers is available.
Almost all Medicare Advantage members (98 percent) were in plans that covered some fitness benefits in 2022, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study. These benefits take several forms, including membership in the popular SilverSneakers program for people 65 and older or its competitors Renew Active and Silver&Fit.
SilverSneakers provides access to more than 15,000 fitness locations across the country; online dance, exercise, meditation, stretch and yoga classes; and an on-demand video library of prerecorded workouts. A free SilverSneakers GO fitness app for Apple and Android phones is also available. Other Medicare Advantage plans also offer free gym memberships with access to a nationwide network of health clubs and exercise locations, personalized fitness plans and on-demand workout videos.
In addition to gym access, many plans provide incentives to stay active, such as a free fitness tracker every two years, discounts on a smartwatch or exercise equipment if you meet activity goals, or gift cards if you take certain healthy actions, such as exercising or getting a flu shot.
How do I find Advantage plans with fitness benefits?
To find Medicare Advantage plans with fitness benefits in your area, go to the Medicare Plan Finder, type in your zip code and choose Medicare Advantage Plan for the search. It will prompt you to put in your medications, but you can bypass that.
Next, you’ll see a list of Medicare Advantage plans available in your area. The Plan Benefits summary for each option will have a green check mark if the plan has vision, dental, hearing, transportation to and from a medical appointment, or fitness benefits. Click on the Plan Details button and scroll down to Extra Benefits for a summary of fitness benefits available. To learn more details beyond “Not covered” or “Some coverage,” you can contact the plan at the phone number at the top of the Plan Details web page or read plan documents on the insurer’s website, linked at the top of the page.
Do Medigap plans offer fitness benefits?
Even though Medicare supplemental plans, also known as Medigap, don’t include fitness benefits as part of their standard coverage, you may find they include gym membership as well as discounts for dental, hearing, and vision services at no additional cost. Some plans offer low-cost packages to add these benefits.
Here, too, you can use Medicare’s Plan Finder tool to learn more about Medigap plans in your area.
Keep in mind
You can get free gym memberships and fitness benefits in other ways.
- Employer and retiree health insurance may include wellness benefits, such as exercise programs, gym memberships, health coaching, health education classes, stress-management counseling and weight-loss programs.
- Local gyms and fitness centers often offer senior discounts. Some YMCAs, for example, offer discounts for people 65 and older and financial assistance for people with low incomes.
- Senior centers may have free or low-cost exercise programs and gyms, group biking or walking programs, health and wellness education and even personal trainers. Senior centers are usually affiliated with local Area Agencies on Aging, which you can find through the Eldercare Locator.
Published December 14, 2022