Functional Fitness:Three Simple But Important Exercises
One of the unfortunate side effects of aging is a natural loss of muscle mass. Addressing this natural decline is an important part of creating a healthy and independent future. We often hear about benefits of strength training and cardiovascular exercise for older people. Another area of exercise and fitness that is becoming prominent within an aging population is functional fitness. In its simplest terms, this means the replication of everyday activities and movements. For example, stepping up and down on an exercise step mimics stepping up onto a curb or walking up a set of stairs.
Functional fitness stems from a critical component of training programs for sports athletes. Sprint drills for basketball players, footwork drills for football players and prolonged squats for skiers are a few examples.
Like athletes, adults should be provided opportunities to mimic everyday movements within their exercise routines. By training in this fashion you can address the specifics of how to live and function at maximum potential. The following are a list of functional exercises to include in your exercise program for optimum functioning.
- Sit to Stands – start seated in a chair, without the assistance of your arms, rise to a standing position. Then slower lower yourself back to the edge of the seat. Repeat 10-15 times. This exercise mimics standing from a seated position, something we do each and every day.
- Seated Hamstring Stretch – sit in the edge of a chair and extend one leg with your heel on the ground and ankle bent. The other leg is next to the extended leg with a 90-degree bend in the knee. Next, extend both arms in front of you and slowly bend at the hips to reach towards the toes of the extended leg. When you feel the stretch in the back of the leg hold it for 5-10 seconds without bouncing. Repeat 3 times. This exercise mimics bending over to tie your shoes or pick something up from the ground in a seated position.
- Front Shoulder Raises – Either seated or standing, place a 1-3 pound weight in each hand. Lower your arms to your sides with the palms of your hand facing the sides of your body. While holding the weight slowly raise one arm at a time to shoulder height, then slowly bring back down to your side. Repeat 10-12 times for each arm. This exercise mimics putting away groceries on shelves or grabbing something off of an elevated shelf or ledge.