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Physical Activity for Older Adults

Senior woman holding dumbbells and smiling Are you an older adult looking for ways to exercise in a safe environment? Participating in group exercise programs can help older adults remain physically active.

For adults over 65 years old, exercise helps maintain healthy and longer lives and can prevent many health problems that come with age such as heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis.

Issues such as traffic, adequate lighting and weather can get in the way of being active and, therefore, indoor exercise classes are one way to be active. It’s suggested that adults over 65 should get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate level activity per week , such as brisk walking.

EnhanceFitness is a low-cost program that does not require expensive equipment and focuses on stretching, flexibility, balance, low-impact aerobics, and strength training. Participants in this program meet three times a week for an hour-long exercise class led by a certified EnhanceFitness instructor.

Participants in EnhanceFitness class

EnhanceFitness participants performing an indoor group exercise.

EnhanceFitness Helps Improve Health Among Older Adults

The program began as a 6-month study with 100 older adults at a senior center in Seattle, Washington. Developed in 1994 by the University of Washington Health Promotion Research Center and community partners Sound Generations and Group Health Cooperative, the study showed that the classes significantly improved the participant’s fitness and health. Specifically, older adults showed 52% improvement of feelings of sadness and depression and 35% improvement in physical movement.1 Over 99% of participants say they would recommend the program to a friend.

According to participants, these classes have:

  • Increased strength, improved balance and flexibility.
  • Boosted activity levels and elevated their moods.

Not surprisingly, EnhanceFitness participants said they felt better physically and emotionally when they followed the program.

In addition, in a 2013 report to Congress, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services described promising evidence that EnhanceFitness had reduced total healthcare costs, decreased hospitalizations, and decreased death rates for participating Medicare beneficiaries.2

Availability of EnhanceFitness for Older Adults

After the original study in Washington, participants and partner agencies supported expanding the program to other sites. Over the years, EnhanceFitness has grown to include over 60,000 participants and is now offered at more than 600 locations in 39 states. With the aid of the YMCA of the USA, EnhanceFitness plans continued expansion to additional sites.1


  1. Snyder SJ, Thompson M and Denison P (2015) EnhanceFitness: A 20-year Dissemination History. Front. Public Health 2:270. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2014.00270.
  2. Senior Services EnhanceFitness Evaluated in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Report to Congress. (2013, December 16) [PDF – 52.9 KB].