Posted On 23 May 2019
Functional fitness is all about teaching your body to handle real-life activities. It is a way of exercising that helps your body be strong in those areas that the body needs to be strong in your everyday life. This type of fitness can benefit anyone but can benefit seniors perhaps more than others.
The Idea Of Functional Fitness For Seniors
Functional fitness involves putting your body through the paces that are necessary for everyday life. As a senior, you can lift weights or use a weight lifting machine to strengthen certain muscles of your body to the exclusion of others and may find that you are strengthening certain muscles, which leaves a deficiency in others.
Without functional fitness, you can strengthen your arms in a biceps machine but still throw out your neck when reaching for something out of your reach or throw out your back while lifting your grandchild.
Seniors especially make the mistake of exercising their arms or legs in ways that may strengthen those muscles but avoid exercising their back, for example. This can lead to back trouble that could have been avoided if you had recognized that your arms and legs are intricately connected to your back and are useless without a strong core.
As a senior, you need to use all your muscles and joints in concert with one another and not just isolating out certain muscles to the exclusion of others.
Helping Your Muscles Work Together
Many seniors make the mistake of using weight machines or free weights while at the gym. They are isolating out certain muscle groups for strengthening, strengthening some muscles more than others. They may believe that to have a good biceps bulge is a sign of good health when their triceps muscles are not exercised at all. This means that the muscles cannot work together to do the everyday lifting and stretching that needs to be done as part of your regular day.
Everyday movement is not idealized. You don't lift or move things by isolating out your muscle groups and in fact, it takes a strong back, strong legs, and strong-arm muscles to move a box or carry groceries. If you isolate out a muscle group to the exclusion of all others, you can set yourself up for injury to those muscles you have neglected.
How To Make Functional Exercise Work For You
Functional exercise is all about integration of muscle parts. It is about showing the muscles how to work together to accomplish a task rather than isolating muscle groups that may be exercised out of proportion to the rest of your muscles.
If you like rowing machines, for example, think about the posture you are in when you do that exercise. Your back is stiff and your arms are bent repeatedly with your legs doing very little. This strengthens some muscles and not others.
A better activity is to use a free weight standing up. First, you bend over and strengthen your back in picking up the weight. Then you strengthen your legs by holding the weight with your entire body. Finally, put the weight in various motions around your body so that your latissimus dorsi muscles are activated, along with your biceps and triceps muscles. Even the small muscles of your hands are strengthened by holding the weight.
All your muscles are working in concert by that simple exercise. If you repeat it on the other side of your body, the muscles of your back, sides, legs, and arms are exercised for the other side of your body and you haven't missed any muscles in the process.
This type of exercise better mimics the regular activities you do every day and you will have fewer injuries because your muscles have learned to work in concert.
Balance And Control
Functional exercise is all about using your body to balance yourself while having control over your muscles. For seniors, it may mean skipping lifting weights completely and instead of working on things like squats and lunges that use all your muscles and help your balance. You don't need bulging biceps to have good functional use of your body.
Can you stand on one foot for any amount of time without falling?
If you have questions about functional exercise, talk to a trainer about those exercises that will best mimic those things you are doing in everyday life. It is a different way to exercise that will keep you balanced, strong, and free of injury.