In Shape for Everyday Life
Why should you work out regularly?
For big muscles? To lose weight? To beat your brother-in-law at golf?
Sure, all of those are good reasons for some people.
But what about working out so you are better prepared for the activities of everyday life, like carrying in groceries and putting them up? Like having the stamina for a busy day of errands and grandkids? Or climbing up and down the stairs without getting winded?
That’s the idea behind functional fitness, an approach that’s increasingly popular with all kinds of people, including those over 50 who want to maintain their independence and quality of life without spending countless hours in a gym.
Fitness for Life
As we age, we lose muscle mass and bone density. That’s where the fear of frailty comes in. It’s what causes us to worry about falling later in life. It’s also what inhibits us from enjoying activities without getting hurt. Think of a guy who can lift heavy weight at the gym but throws out his back picking up a suitcase. One of the exercises we prescribe is called the suitcase carry for those of you with the travel bug or other carrying activities.
Functional fitness helps keep us strong and agile, with the endurance to live life the way we want to – even if “fitness” for its own sake isn’t necessarily the priority.
And, if you’re worried that working out will bulk you up like an action hero, we can’t stress enough: That’s just not going to happen.
I tell my clients in functional aging sessions, You won’t get big muscles. You’re going to acquire or maintain muscles you’re going to need and use as you continue to age.
At 55 years old it’s gone beyond being a trend for me. It’s part of my own training. Not all gyms support the functional aging approach for members looking to stay active in all stages of life.
How It Is Different
Compare functional exercises to traditional weightlifting, which usually focuses on one muscle at a time or a group of muscles for growth. You’re often seated, the range of motion is restricted – and the movements are not necessarily related to daily life. The focus for the most part is size and shape for physical appearance. Nothing wrong with that but we tend to focus less on the physical appearance and more on what we want to, can and cannot do as a result of aging.
Functional exercises help muscles work together. Body control, mobility, posture, safety and balance are also primary goals. Some people used to working out on only machines find functional exercise more challenging.
Squats and pushups are good examples. So are lunges, which are common in tasks like vacuuming and yardwork.
As WebMD puts it, functional fitness is “about training your body to handle real-life situations.” That means exercises focused on “building a body capable of doing real-life activities in real-life positions, not just lifting a certain amount of weight in an idealized posture created by a gym machine.” Life is rarely squatting, lunging, balancing and moving in ideal conditions like the gym.
Does being functionally fit sound like a good idea for you? We’re here to help you with safe, effective programs to boost your fitness, confidence and enjoyment of daily life. No matter what era of life your in.
Project Body Smart, Functional Aging Specialist
Global Fitness & Racquet Centre, Kelowna BC Canada.