We know that exercise is one of the keys to maintaining our strength and overall health as women in midlife. Aerobic exercise and strength training are topics I discuss regularly as well as engage in just about every day of my life.
But wait…there’s more! Another aspect of fitness for women over 50 is our “functional fitness”. What does that mean?
Functional fitness is about preparing you for life… This type of exercise mimics your everyday actions while engaging multiple muscle groups.womenshealthmag.com
Think about that for a minute and the benefits of functional fitness to us as women in midlife. I wrote a guest post for my blogger friend Rebecca at BabyBoomster.com last year and here is the everyday life example I used. Perhaps you can relate:
You’re spending the afternoon with the grandkids and things are going oh-so-well. No bumps, scrapes or bruises, everyone’s happy and smiling.
You attempt to pick up the youngest, a sturdy little guy about 18 months old, and put him in his high chair for a snack. Except…your arms don’t want to reach up high enough to get him over the top of the tray and into the chair. You manage to get him seated and happily enjoying his tasty treat, but what in the world just happened?
You’re a fit 58-year-old, you walk, lift a few weights, enjoy a bike ride when the weather permits. That means you’re fit, right? So what’s up with the high chair episode?
What happened, my friend is called functional fitness, and your body just wasn’t up to the challenge. The combination of movements and muscles was something that your body was not prepared for so it didn’t want to perform.
But, no worries, my friend. With a smart combination of strength training movements, we can pick up that grandchild with a smile on our face and confidence in our movements.
When we’re incorporating functional fitness movements into our workouts, we are committing to a healthier life ahead with less chance of injury when we go about our day doing things like:
- bending down and reaching up to put away our groceries, laundry, contents of the dishwasher, etc.
- tending to our landscaping and garden (down on the knees, up on the feet, reaching over our head, back down on the knees)
- sitting on the floor with our grandkids, then getting up again without needing help
- getting in and out of larger-size vehicles
I think you get the idea of the benefits of functional fitness training and why it is so critical that we include this as part of our strength and aerobic exercise.
One of the most feared injuries of elderly people is falling. Our bones become more brittle as we age and our sense of balance diminishes.
We maintain our balance using several systems in our body that integrate together, and when we get older those internal systems just don’t perform the way they used to. As a result, we can lose our balance.
Fortunately, most of us reading this post are young enough and motivated enough to prepare our bodies for those years ahead. And it takes motivation and commitment, my friend. We may not always be in the mood to exercise and strength train, or eat the food we know is best for us, or put on the tennies and go for a walk, but you know what?
If you don’t take care of yourself now you’ll reap the results of those decisions as you get older. And you might not like those results and limitations.
So, let’s do it!
Incorporating Functional Fitness Training into our workouts
Once we understand the benefits of functional fitness as we age it should be a simple decision to add them to our regular exercise routine.
I’ve found several helpful workouts to help me with my own functional fitness efforts and want to share them with you.
Of course, always consult with your physician if you’re unsure of your ability to perform a new type of exercise.
1 | Functional fitness exercises typically include:
- SQUAT – a similar movement to sitting in a chair
- INCLINE CHEST PRESS – works the same muscles as doing pushups but more beginner(and age) friendly
- PLANK – requires mobility and balance, and practice!
- WALL SQUAT – similar to a regular squat but with more back support
- STATIONARY LUNGE – mimics the movement of getting off the ground
- SINGLE-LEG LIFT – improves balance, engages the core and works each side of the body separately
You can find examples that are easy to understand as well as how-to’s for performing these exercises right here: Functional Fitness for Adults
2 | I’ve learned so much from fitness expert Linda Melone, and her post about the benefits of functional fitness is no exception.
Here are two videos from that post:
Read Linda’s full post: Functional Exercise for Women Over 50
3 | Do you enjoy practicing yoga or Pilates? Well, you’re actually strengthening your body’s functional fitness, so good on you! Keep it up, or make the decision to start learning more about one or both, and see if it is an exercise that will work for you.
Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle as We Age
If you’re over the age of 50 you know that maintaining a healthy lifestyle is work. And we’re past the age of being able to “cheat” and get away with it when it comes to what we eat, how we take care of ourselves, and our outlook on life.
Every day we have is a gift given to us, my friend.
Let’s use them to the fullest, and do more than just read about the benefits of functional fitness, or think about creating a grocery list that includes clean food, or ponder when a visit to the gym might fit into your schedule.
Is it time for a gentle “kick in the pants”? Well, I won’t tell anyone if it is, but I will offer some tools and resources for you to get moving!
Knowing that your mind, body, and heart are in sync is so critical to taking your health beyond thinking about it, to living it every day.
The Fresh Start Challenge is a simple email series course I created that walks you through the process of balancing those critical areas of ‘you-ness’ that help you move forward with joy in your life.
Sometimes the simple act of writing down a goal, or a task, or a promise to yourself, or something you want to aspire to, will spur you on to achieve that very thing.
Yes, smartphones and apps are cool, but not the same as picking up a pen and putting your thoughts down on something that you can pick up and read again and again.
If this resonates with you, consider the benefits of my Inspired Living Printables. I created this group of motivating and inspiring printables for women like me, over 50 and over 60.
You’ll find a variety of designs that will help you make, and keep, your commitments, from workout schedules to healthy eating; from promises and commitments to yourself to tasks and appointments.
How about you? Is functional fitness a part of your regular workout routine?
If not, use the resources here as well as others, to create a plan that works for you and keeps your body strong, fit, and able to function well as you age.