… And Why Should YOU Care?
If you have ever been in rehab or part of a sports team you have likely participated in some form of functional fitness training routine.
As we age we start to notice the little things that are going to haunt us later on. Things like falling into the easy chair instead of sitting down or having to lean to the far opposite when carrying a heavy grocery bag.
Maybe it doesn’t concern you yet that you have to tug twice at the door to get into the bank, or hold onto the car door when sliding into the low bucket seat. It may not be a bother to you – yet… But it will.
The older we get the less muscle mass we have and we continue to lose it. We also lose bone density and the ability to build both of these up. In a few short years if you don’t start to incorporate some simple exercises that include a range of functional fitness training routines things will get tougher.
Of course the medical supply industry has come up with gadgets and aids to help us in our old age. Things like grab-bars and raised toilet-seat attachments are great things to have in your home – if you need them. What if you can avoid this stage of your life altogether and knew that by incorporating a few strategic functional exercises into your day might mean a long and healthy old-age?
Wouldn’t you rather be free and independent for all your life?
Benefits of Functional Training
Old age frailty doesn’t have to be a certainty. Quite simply the activities we take for granted like; walking,climbing the stairs, lifting groceries, reaching to the top shelf, getting up out of a chair and bending over to pick up your dropped keys are all a normal part of your day that gets more and more difficult as time ticks on by.
If you don’t start to incorporate functional fitness into your day soon you will lose the freedom of being able to care for yourself including personal grooming, shopping, housework and gardening and soon be unable to travel leaving you housebound.
The way to avoid this is to begin a functional training program that includes muscle strength and endurance as well as aerobic activities. You will also need to include flexibility and stretching and focus on small motor functions that include hand dexterity and shoulder movement. Once you begin a structured routine you will notice quickly improvements in your speed, balance, and agility.
Function Fitness Terms
These are the most commonly used terms you will hear when talking or reading about functional fitness.
1. Compound movements – this is when you do an exercise or movement where you will be using two or more joints to complete the exercise. A dumbbell curl is NOT a compound movement because it is a single movement designed to target one muscle.
On the other hand a dumbbell bench press does focus on your chest muscles but secondary it works your shoulders, triceps and your stabilizer muscles and others. The joints in your shoulders, elbows, and wrists all work together to complete one bench press.
2. Strength – this is your body’s ability to generate force. Push, pull, twist, lift in a way that depends on your body’s ability and muscle coordination.
3. Power – the ability to apply force (strength) over a period of time.
4. Endurance – the ability to apply effort over time and for how long. Building your endurance means you can do work for a period of time without having to rest.
5. Anaerobic training – the word anaerobic means “without oxygen”. You will know when your muscles are in an oxygen debt because this is when they lose strength and begin to burn. Usually this is experienced with short burst exercise like sprinting or weight lifting.
6. Aerobic training – the word aerobic means “with oxygen”. Activities such as walking are aerobic. More endurance activities that you can do as your fitness levels improve can begin in an anaerobic state then transition to aerobic as you continue. For example the first minute or two on the bicycle can have you working at an oxygen deficit where you feel winded and your legs aren’t as strong. After a couple of minutes though you notice you get your pace and can breathe easily at a great rate of exertion.
7. Balance – so very important to pay attention to as we get older. Falling on the ice once can crack the skull or break a hip.
8. Speed – how fast an action or movement can be completed in a period of time. This can be measure something like reps per minute or miles per hour.
9. Coordination – losing hand dexterity and hand-eye coordination happens over time. Fortunately simple movements and exercises can be done to help slow this down.
10. Agility – getting in and out of the car, standing up, walking over uneven ground – all requires agility. This includes a segment of balance as well. Improving agility is about how to handle changing directions or one’s ability to transition from one movement to another.
11. Flexibility – necessary for all the above. Tight muscles, ligaments and tendons will hinder full range of motions in your joints. Without good flexibility you can impede balance, agility, strength and movement in general. Flexibility is needed for speed and endurance as well.
12. Progressive functional exercise – as the body improves its fitness and abilities it can continue to improve. Regardless of your age your body will respond positively to exercise and can continue to improve.
Functional Training Exercises
If you do these few exercises only two or three times a week you WILL notice an overall improvement in your balance, strength, flexibility, and endurance by the end of the month.
The following exercises can be done in a series or circuit. Go through each exercise once to complete the circuit and then once again for two complete circuits.
Maintaining and improving your strength, balance, and flexibility is important for so many everyday things. You might be surprised to find out how bad your balance really is when you initially do this first exercise. The good news is, after only a few days of doing these functional exercises you will notice a big improvement.
The progressions are a suggested guideline to prompt you to move to the next level of your fitness. Only progress if you are ready. There is nothing lost if you have to do the same routine for a couple of weeks in a row. Because this is a balance exercise your safety is important.
You may wish to do this close to a counter or chair so you can use it to stead your balance if needed.
First Week: Stand comfortably with your feet apart. Stand tall and straight with arms to the side. Now close your eyes for 15 seconds if you can maintain your balance. If you have trouble keeping your eyes closed for 15 seconds then just work up to it. Do this 4 times.
Second Week: Once you have been able to successfully close your eyes and not lose balance, this time reach your arms out in front of you while your eyes are closed. Next reach out to your sides.
Third Week: This one is much more difficult and you need to be quite careful. With your eyes closed, lift one foot off the floor. Then the other foot. When this becomes easy you can add difficulty by raising your leg to the front and side.
Standing Ovation – Exaggerated
Start this exercise sitting upright on the edge of your chair. Be sure both feet are comfortably flat on the floor. Stand without the assistance of the chair (if you can) by placing your weight on your heels. When you are standing spread your arms wide to the side so your arms are straight and level with your shoulders. Slowly bring your hands together in front of your like you are doing a wide and exaggerated clap.
Do this slowly and deliberately so you get a good stretch through your chest, shoulders, and back.
First Week: place some low obstacles in your walking path. You can use household goods like soup cans or toilet paper rolls. Walk around and as you come to an obstacle slowly lift your leg to step over it. Focus on maintaining an erect posture and not leaning over to counter-balance.
Second Week: Same as first week but with sideways movements.
Third Week: Combine the forward and sideways stepping plus use higher obsticles like juice cans or two rolls of toilet paper.
Sit & Stand to Infinity
Place a chair in the centre of the room. In front of the chair about 12 feet put a can or marker. Place another can 12 feet to the right of the chair. Start the exercise sitting in a chair. Stand up and walk straight ahead to the can. Walk around it in a clockwise direction then head to the other can and walk around it in a counter clockwise direction then back to your chair. Do this 3 times.
Go for a brisk 10 minute walk.
Using something like full water bottles or soup cans grab one in each hand. Standing straight with both feet comfortably planted on the ground and holding the “weights” at shoulder height. Push the cans up toward the ceiling then slowly back to the starting position. Do these slow and controlled repetitions for 30 seconds.
You may need to start this sitting closer to the back of your chair. As the exercise gets easier for you, you can add difficulty by sitting closer to the edge of the seat.
Begin sitting upright and not using the back rest. With both feet comfortably flat on the floor, slowly raise one foot slightly off the floor then extend that leg straight out in front. Be mindful not to lean to counter balance and instead use your balancing and core muscles to remain erect.
If this is too difficult just start by raising your foot slightly off the floor and holding. Try to hold for 30 seconds. Doe each foot /leg 3 times.
Pretend you see lint on the carpet, or drop a dime or something so you can pick t up. Using your legs squat down to pick it up. Do not bend at the waist – this exercise is a leg exercise. Drop the lint/dime 5 times. To make it a little more interesting toss it a couple feet away from you each time.
Put one foot on the chair and lean forward to push your knee forward. This will stretch your groin, back leg, shins and thighs. Hold for a couple of seconds. Work up to holding stretches comfortably and without paid for 30 seconds.
Using your light weights or soup cans, stand straight and curl the weight toward you so you are doing a bicep curl. You can do both arms together or in an alternate fashion. The movement should be slow and controlled in both directions.
Using your chair or desk edge for support, lean forward so your upper body is at about a 45 degree angle. using one hand for support the other extends the weight behind you.