What are examples of functional fitness exercises?

Functional Fitness Exercises for Seniors

Functional Training

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  • Functional fitness refers to exercises which enhance an individuals ability to 'function' in a greater capacity on a daily basis. Functional fitness exercises usually imitate day-to-day motions and activities creating an increase of strength and mobility. Age, athletic activity and lifestyle usually play a vital role in developing the proper functional fitness routine.

    Functional fitness refers to how well you’re able to do all the physical tasks you need to do each day. For example, if you’re functionally fit, you can carry a bag of groceries without strain, bend down to pick up laundry from the floor without pulling a muscle, lift a child without injuring your back or even perform regular exercise. A large factor in functional fitness is flexibility - and staying active can help. Movement helps loosen up the body, keeping muscles limber.

    Before beginning any fitness program, it’s important that you get functionally fit first. This means that you should be in shape enough to safely and effectively perform everyday activities, like bending, lifting, twisting and walking. After all, if you can't reach into the back of a closet without pulling a muscle, how can you safely lift a dumbbell several times? But it’s also important to stay functionally fit even after you've been active for a while to keep key muscles in ready-shape. These muscle groups include your abdomen, back and shoulders, and lower legs (quads, hamstrings, calves). Below are some exercises that can condition these muscles:

    1. Stretches (hamstring, quads, upper calf, lower calf)
    Stretching your lower leg muscles improves your flexibility as it helps your muscles and joints move through their normal range of motion. Increased flexibility can also reduce the risk for injury and prevent post-exercise soreness.

    2. Abdominal crunches (basic, twisting trunk curl, upper abdomen)
    Crunches help to develop a strong core, which stabilizes your body and protects your back, whether you bend over to pick up a piece of paper or a dumbbell.

    3. Back and shoulder stretches and exercises (middle- and low-back stretch, arm and leg raise, shrug roll) A strong back and shoulders improve your posture and help you perform walking and running exercises safely and more efficiently.

    4. Lower leg (heel raise)
    It's important to strengthen your lower legs for activities like walking and climbing stairs because it reduces your incidence of shin splints, an inflammatory condition that can derail your workouts. Heel raises are ideal because they strengthen both your calves and shins.

    You can do an entire series of these exercises in 10 minutes. You should perform them at least three times a week for at least one week before you embark on any aerobic or strength-training routine. Afterwards, weave functional fitness exercises into your regular workouts to keep these key muscles in shape.

  • Muscle-specific functional fitness exercises could incorporate many variables depending on the need and want of the individual's function to move certain muscles. this is also determined by ones goal or muscle demand, in order to balance, use multiple joints, or move through multiple planes of movement. Sometimes these exercises might work to decrease the load on the muscle while increasing the complexity of motor coordination and flexibility which are used based on the functional needs and wants from each specific individual.

    Functional fitness programs are designed around exercises and activities that closely mimic the activities of daily living. Throughout our workdays, time spent playing with our children, and activities performed with our friends and families we move in a variety of different ways, it is not often that we sit on a bench and push something forward, lie on our backs and push something up, or shrug our shoulders up and down repeatedly. However, bending, twisting, changing direction, and lifting at various speeds in multiple settings are a part of our daily lives. While working out on machines or performing a typical bodybuilding routine do build strength, endurance, and burn calories, they do very little to prepare you for the movements of life. In fact, most common injuries occur while performing activities outside of the gym. Functional fitness exercises can increase strength, endurance, flexibility, and balance by using exercises that mimic real life movement patterns. Some examples of functional exercises are:

  • In a society where an increasing number of us spend the majority of our day seated (even driving, sitting down to eat, or lounge on the couch count) our flexibility is definitely compromised. When our muscles shorten and weaken from inactivity, the risk of injury or strain is significantly increased. Functional fitness exercises incorporate dynamic stretches, such as a lunge or even a yoga sun salutation as opposing muscle groups are simultaneously contracted and lengthened (e.g. the bicep extends when then tricep is extended in upward facing dog).

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And that’s the focus of functional fitness. Functional fitness exercises are designed to train and develop your muscles to make it easier and safer to perform everyday activities, such as carrying groceries or playing a game of basketball with your kids.