The Benefits of Functional Fitness & Why We Need It As Women Over 50

Last Updated on March 5, 2024 by Candi Randolph

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?

benefits of functional fitness

Functional fitness is about preparing you for life… This type of exercise mimics your everyday actions while engaging multiple muscle groups.

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 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 (as well as a healthier metabolism) 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!

It can be difficult to remain motivated, encouraged, and feel supported when you’re trying to establish a healthy habits and lose weight. Did you know that your smart phone can be a very effective tool for accomplishing your goals to live a healthier life? Learn more about MIGHTY HEALTH, the healthy lifestyle app created for women and men over 50

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

Benefits of functional fitness and why we need it as women over 50

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. It is an essential component of aging well and in a healthy way.

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.

Learn more about Fresh Start Challenge

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.

Learn more about Inspired Living Printables

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.

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what functional fitness means for women over 50

11 thoughts on “The Benefits of Functional Fitness & Why We Need It As Women Over 50”

  1. This is a great reminder to all of us as we age, that we should be incorporating functional fitness into our daily workouts. Thanks Candi for the suggestions and encouragement to continue to stay fit and healthy, regardless of our age. I have pinned for #mlstl

  2. Hi Candi, what you say makes a lot of sense. I feel quite fit and healthy, but at the same time I notice my arms feel a bit puny when I’m lifting heavy things – especially above shoulder level. I’m definitely going to have to incorporate some more arm exercises into my weekly routine if I want to keep lifting those grandgirls as they get older!
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 😊

    1. Hi Leanne, I know what you mean, my granddaughter is a stocky little one who reminds me of what I need to be doing every time I pick her up! But, I’ve seen improvement and more strength for these types of movements since being faithful to the functional fitness exercises. They really do make a difference. Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. I led a seniors’ fitness class for many years – the women were all 60+ and we did many of the exercises you recommend. As life does I’ve come full circle and, after being in another city for 12 years, I’m back in town and they were in need of a leader. Needless to say, these women are all 80+ now, slower, more careful, but as I coax them to attempt many “functional living” exercises, some with light weights, they are pleased and I’m excited to see the improvements in five short months! I reap the benefits too so that’s a bonus! Thank you for the reminder and the endorsement!

    1. Hi Agnes, your group of ladies is fortunate to have you back! It’s wonderful to hear that they’re improving and doing well, and it shows that we’re never too old to become better and stronger. Thanks so much for sharing that with us!

    1. Hi Sue, you are a wonderful example of living a life that encourages fitness at all levels, including functional fitness. Thanks, as always, for taking the time to stop by and leave a comment. xo

  4. Functional fitness makes so much sense. I never really thought about why it’s so important to stay fit as we age, but when you brought up the point about limitations, I realized, that that is what is so important to me. I don’t want to live with any limitations on what I’m able to do as I get older. I’m keeping up my weight lifting routine, and with the added daily run for stamina, I think I’m doing well. Thanks for sharing this very inspirational post, Candi. Sharing to FB.

    1. Hi Christina, I agree with you, and want to be as strong and fit as possible as I get older. Functional fitness plays into that for sure. You set a great example with your commitment to overall fitness!

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