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Functional Fitness for Seniors

Dana Larsen
By Dana LarsenOctober 4, 2017

“Functional fitness” helps seniors live life with increased energy and strength by mimicking the activities of daily life. Regular exercise has shown to help joints by building muscles and increasing blood flow throughout the body, which is good, but this new form of fitness focuses on everyday activities, such as cleaning and putting groceries away.

Along with releasing important endorphins, exercise helps seniors live more comfortably, in addition to building energy and strength for daily activities. Personal trainer, Leslie Magnum, teaches functional fitness classes at a senior center in Atlanta, where Moses attends. He is the owner of Young at Heart Wellness, and believes regular physical activity helps seniors tackle everyday tasks. “People need to know that seniors are living. They want to live. They don’t want to sit around and not do anything.”

What is Functional Fitness?

According to Magnum, functional fitness moves focus on balance, core strength, endurance and multi-joint flexibility. Most daily activities require more than bicep curls; they require a combination of senior fitness.

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Seniors need to work all the muscles in the arm to promote healthy movement of putting items away at different levels, in conjunction with having the flexibility and strength to do so. For example, putting groceries away requires arm strength, body core balance and calf strength.

As we get older, it becomes more difficult to do daily tasks as arthritis, atrophy and lost muscles mass take place, so seniors who want to stay independent realize the benefits of fitness and are integrating the classes into their weekly routines.

Where Can You Find Functional Fitness Programs?

Smart commercial gyms are beginning to offer senior functional fitness programs in the mid-morning and early afternoon as most other exercisers are working or taking care of children. In fact, if fitness centers and gyms are not integrating functional fitness or a healthy elderly exercise alternative, they’re losing out on a potentially huge revenue source as often seniors have more discretionary money and time.

But as with any other age group in the nation, getting seniors to work out can be a challenge.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that approximately 32% of older adults have had no physical activity time in the last month. This is where families can help motivate their aging loved ones.

Use It or Lose It, Grandma

At A Place for Mom, we often hear wisdoms of happy, healthy lives from seniors and have learned that if you want to remain healthy and vivacious well into your golden years — exercise is a must.

Regular exercise for seniors helps them to not only maintain flexibility and muscle mass, but also helps them to feelyounger. It’s mentally empowering to be able to continue doing many of the physical activities they did when they were younger. In fact, some seniors are more fit as older adults than they were as young adults as they have more time.

But perhaps the most compelling evidence for staying active comes from a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine:

Those who were more physically fit in midlife were less likely to develop chronic health conditions in old age, such as Alzheimer’s or congestive heart failure.

So help your elderly loved one enjoy their golden years. Talk to them about functional fitness classes at their local fitness center. If they’re not interested in that, simply walking at brisk paces and gardening are some healthy exercise alternatives.

Do you have any stories about functional fitness for seniors or are you having trouble motivating your aging loved one to exercise? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.

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Dana Larsen
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