April 7, 2020 —Functional Fitness has become a buzzword in the fitness industry. However, the goals, exercises and results vary among users.
What Is Functional Fitness?
Simply put, Functional Fitness is training that prepares your body to perform daily tasks. The exercises and intensity differ according to your goals.
Do you want to become a better dancer? Do you want to be able to carry groceries home with ease? Do you want to be able to take your dog for a run? Do you want to run a marathon? Functional Fitness can help with all of those.
Functional Fitness Benefits Everyone
No matter how much—or how little—you workout, Functional Fitness can help. By simulating common movements you make every day, training may:
- Prevent injury
- Improve balance
- Strengthen muscles
- Increase agility
- Prevent falls
Functional training may benefit older adults more than traditional exercises that concentrate on one movement or one body part. In the IDEA Fitness Journal, fitness industry professionals Cody Sipe, Ph.D. and Dan Ritchie, Ph.D., state that Functional Fitness improves the power required to complete daily tasks more than other forms of training that isolate muscles. They also make the point that traditional forms of exercise don’t necessarily lead to an increase in function, which is the goal of Functional Fitness.
Functional Fitness Exercises
Many different exercises can be part of Functional Fitness training. A squat trains your muscles how to stand from a seated position. Multidirectional lunges prepare your body for vacuuming. Yoga and Tai Chi build muscle strength by incorporating the same poses you use every day.
Although Functional Fitness exercises such as bicep curls may isolate one set of muscles, they more commonly use muscles in the upper and lower body at the same time, which builds core stability.
5 of the Top Functional Fitness Exercises for older adults that use body weight and common aids are:
- Stair climbing (and descending) tones legs, improves cardiovascular health, and increases energy.
- Adding hand weights will tone your arms.
- Lunges improve posture, strengthen muscles in the back, legs, and hips and increase flexibility. Add hand weights to tone arms.
- Knee lifts increase core strength, improve balance, and, with hand weights, strengthen shoulders.
- Push-ups strengthen arm, shoulder, and leg muscles and enhance core strength.
- Dynamic plank strengthens the entire body.
For more Functional Fitness exercises expressly designed for older adults, visit VKool.com.
Is Functional Fitness Right for You?
Sipe and Ritchie emphasize that assessment is especially important for mature adults, whose training must be differentiated from that of people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and even 50s. They add that some forms of training, such as using unstable surfaces, may cause more harm than good for certain people.
Follow these tips to ensure your experience with Functional Fitness is safe:
- Ask your doctor about whether Functional Fitness is right for you and whether you require certain adaptations.
- Find an expert, preferably a professional accustomed to training older adults.
- Start with bodyweight exercises, then add weight.
- Use adaptations when necessary. If balance is an issue, consider doing exercises in a swimming pool. If you lack lower body strength or mobility, sit on a chair.
Functional Fitness is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Incorporate the exercises into your present routine or use them to change up your routine.
Donna Lakinger, fitness coordinator at The Admiral at the Lake, is a staunch advocate of a varied exercise program. “Try something new! Your body will thank you, and you will feel better.”