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Senior fitness lowers healthcare costs

SEATTLE, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- Seniors getting into the swing of fitness programs and exercising are lowering healthcare costs, a U.S. study finds.

Researchers at the University of Washington find group health plan members over the age of 65 who took advantage of benefits providing an exercise program had -- by year two -- significantly fewer hospital admissions and lower healthcare costs than controls the same age and gender.

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"Physical activity can help seniors improve their balance to prevent falls; boost cardiovascular health to prevent heart attacks; and improve overall metabolism to help delay diabetes onset and complication of diabetes," study co-author James LoGerfo said in a statement.

The researchers studied 5,000 participants in SilverSneakers -- a group health plan benefit that provides an exercise program geared to seniors. The SilverSneakers participants were matched to more than 9,000 controls -- those not taking part in physical activity -- by age and sex.

Lead author, Huong Q. Nguyen, says the study shows older adults -- especially on fixed incomes -- need to take part in physical activity for many reasons, including cutting down on unexpected healthcare costs.

The study was published in Preventing Chronic Disease.

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