It seems like every day there’s a new fitness fad promoted by celebrities and health influencers, but one that shouldn’t be overlooked is functional fitness. Functional fitness is a series of exercises that train your muscles to help you in everyday activities so you can do them safely and pain-free. Functional fitness isn’t just beneficial for athletes either, it’s for everyone!
Through functional movements, you train your muscles to work together to prepare yourself for daily tasks, such as tying your shoes or carrying groceries into your home. This is done by simulating common movements you do during your daily routine, at home, work, or in sports. Anyone can benefit from functional fitness but it may be especially beneficial as part of a comprehensive program for seniors to improve balance, strengthen muscles and agility while reducing the risk of falls.
Here are some examples of exercises that mimic daily activities:
Bodyweight exercises: You don’t have to have fancy equipment to reap the benefits of functional fitness. Exercises that use your own bodyweight, like squats and lunges can improve your strength, balance and coordination. If you are frequently picking up your toddler, heavy laundry baskets or other heavy items squats can help you build the proper strength in your legs and even in your upper body to protect your back. In fact, squats are considered to be one of the best functional exercises to complete your daily routine. The best part is that these don’t require equipment and can be done just about anywhere.
Weight-Bearing Exercises: Exercises that use weights, such as kettlebells or dumbbells, can really amp up your workout. You can use them to add resistance to squats, lunges, sit-ups, and more! Kettlebells are a great way to add some weight to your functional fitness routine. They’re easy to hold and come in many different weights so you can choose where you start. This can help you when carrying groceries, a toddler, and just overall building strength. The key is incorporating multiple movements. For example, instead of simply performing a bicep curl, pair a stair climb with a bicep curl. This move will strengthen your arms and improve your ability to carry things up the stairs.
Yoga: One of the most important components of a functional fitness program is that you are maintaining postures and are able to move all of your joints in a full range of motion. Throughout yoga, you are gaining flexibility, building core muscles, and learning balance, all through the practice of maintaining postures and learning how to move properly between them. You will also do gentle twists and bends which we do every day and is important to keeping our body flowing so we do not pull muscles.
Tai Chi: Often explained as meditation in motion, tai chi is a traditional Chinese martial art that involves slow, graceful movements that can improve balance, flexibility and mood. Tai chi is a low-impact exercise, making it ideal for those who are new to exercising or have injuries.
Your functional fitness program is all based on what your goals are and what your day-to-day routine involves. Consulting with both a certified trainer and your doctor can help you decide what exercises would be most beneficial for you.
Disclaimer: Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. This general information is not intended to replace your healthcare professional. If you experience any pain or difficulty when exercising, stop and consult your healthcare provider.