Your Senior Fitizens Spotlight on Functional Exercise | A Life-Changing Workout Routine

Female senior with arms up in group class outdoors

YouFit Personal Trainer Nick Patma: I love functional fitness! The “functional” aspect just means it’s designed to improve your ability to perform normal activities in daily life, to make movement easier and painless. It’s about quality of life. Being pain-free is crucial for seniors, so adding a functional aspect to their strength training helps.

What is a Functional Workout? Strength, Mobility & Independence

As we age, our bodies change. Maintaining strength, balance, and mobility becomes paramount for preserving our independence and enjoying a high quality of life. This is where functional workouts come in. Unlike exercises that isolate specific muscles (think bicep curls), functional workouts mimic movements we use in daily life, helping us to stay strong, agile, and self-sufficient.

Why Are Functional Workouts Important for Independent Living?

The beauty of functional workouts lies in their practicality. They train your body to perform real-life activities with ease. Imagine being able to:

  • Get up from a chair effortlessly. Squats and step-ups strengthen the muscles needed for this common movement.
  • Carry groceries without strain. Pulling and carrying exercises build the strength and coordination required for lifting and hauling.
  • Maintain balance and prevent falls. Balance exercises improve stability and reduce the risk of accidents.
  • Open jars and doors with ease. Pushing and pulling exercises strengthen your arms and core.

In short, functional workouts equip you with the physical tools to tackle daily tasks confidently and safely, promoting a sense of independence and well-being.

Functional Workouts for Older Adults: A Step-by-Step Guide

Ready to get started? Here are some essential functional exercises specifically tailored for older adults. Always consult with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.

Warm-Up (5-10 minutes)

  • Gentle cardio, like marching in place or walking
  • Dynamic stretches, such as arm circles and leg swings

Workout

Squats

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes slightly turned out.
  2. Bend your knees and hips, as if you’re sitting back into a chair. Keep your back straight and chest up.
  3. Lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the ground (or as far as comfortable).
  4. Push through your heels to return to standing.
  5. Repeat 10-12 times.

Step-Ups

  1. Use a sturdy box or step that’s about 6-12 inches high.
  2. Step up with one foot, then bring the other foot up.
  3. Step back down with one foot, then the other.
  4. Alternate the leading foot.
  5. Repeat 10-12 times on each side.

Planks

  1. Start on your hands and knees. Lower yourself onto your forearms, keeping your elbows directly under your shoulders.
  2. Extend your legs behind you, resting on your toes. Your body should form a straight line from head to heels.
  3. Engage your core and hold for 20-30 seconds (or as long as you can with good form).
  4. Repeat 3-4 times.

Balance Exercises

  • Single-leg stand: Stand on one leg for 10-15 seconds, then switch legs.
  • Heel-to-toe walk: Walk in a straight line, placing the heel of one foot directly in front of the toes of the other foot.

Pushing Exercises

Wall Push-Ups
  1. Stand facing a wall, arms extended. 
  2. Lean forward, bending your elbows until your chest touches the wall. 
  3. Push back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat 10-20 times.
Seated Chest Press with Resistance Bands
  1. Sit with a resistance band wrapped around your back and hold the ends in each hand. 
  2. Extend your arms forward, then slowly bring your hands back towards your chest.
  3. Repeat 10-12 times.

Pulling Exercises

  • Seated rows with resistance bands: Sit with the resistance band wrapped around your feet and hold the ends in each hand. Pull your hands towards your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together.
  • Bicep curls with light weights or resistance bands: Stand or sit with a weight in each hand. Bend your elbows, bringing the weights up towards your shoulders. Lower slowly.

Carrying Exercises

  • Farmer’s carry: Hold a weight (dumbbell, kettlebell, or even a grocery bag) in each hand and walk for a set distance.
  • Suitcase carry: Hold a weight in one hand and walk, keeping your posture upright. Switch hands halfway through.

Cool-Down (5 minutes)

Gentle static (stretch and hold, don’t bounce) stretches, holding each for 20-30 seconds.

Important Considerations

Progress gradually. Start with a few repetitions of each exercise and gradually increase the number or duration as you get stronger.

Listen to your body. Rest if you feel pain or discomfort.

Modify as needed. Use chairs or walls for support if balance is an issue.

Ready to Take Your Functional Fitness to the Next Level?

For personalized guidance and a wider variety of exercises, consider YouFit Gyms. Our experienced trainers can create a program tailored to your specific needs and goals, ensuring you get the most out of your functional workouts and enjoy a healthier, more independent life.

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