Functional exercises for seniors are the single best way to make life easier, better & more enjoyable. They’re gentle & easy, but go beyond simply staying fit & active as you age—these are the exercises that directly impact how easy it is to do the simple movements you make again & again & again throughout every single day.
What is functional exercise?
Functional exercises are movements that mirror real-life activities & focus on improving everyday movements. These exercises involve multiple muscle groups and joints working together, making them one of the most effective ways to improve your physical function for the ways you use your body in real life.
Why is functional fitness important?
While any form of exercise, like yoga or strength training, is great for improving your health & abilities, functional exercises have the greatest impact on the precise ways your body works in real life tasks & activities.
Functional fitness focuses on exercises that directly relate to your everyday movements, such as bending down to pick something up, getting out of a chair, or reaching for something on a high shelf. By building strength & flexibility in the muscles & joints you use for all your movements in day-to-day life, it makes every single thing you do easier—leading to a big improvement to your overall quality of life.
What are the benefits of functional fitness training?
Functional fitness training for seniors helps you…
- Open doors easier
- Reach higher shelves
- Lift your grandkid
- Go from sitting to standing easier
- Increase your ability to carry groceries
- Improve balance & stability
- Increase flexibility & range of motion
- Improve lifting & carrying ability
- Increase reach
- Improve coordination
- Reduce risk of falls
- Improve mobility
- Increase overall strength & endurance
What are the 5 fundamental human movements?
Every single thing you do uses at least 1 of the 5 fundamental human movements. If you can improve these 5 types of movements—you’ll see your quality of life drastically improve. Here are the 5 fundamental human movements:
PUSH: Involves pushing something away from your body.
- Real-life examples: Pushing a door open or breaking a fall.
- Exercise suggestion: Wall push-ups—targets the chest, shoulders & triceps.
PULL: Involves pulling something towards your body.
- Real-life examples: Pulling a door towards you, opening drawers or lifting objects.
- Exercise suggestion: Bent over row—targets the upper back & biceps.
SQUAT: Involves bending your knees & lowering your body towards the ground.
- Real-life example: This movement is essential for activities such as sitting down & standing up from a chair, getting up off the floor & picking up objects.
- Exercise suggestion: Chair squat—targets the glutes, hamstrings & quadriceps.
HINGE: Involves bending your hips and lowering your upper body towards the ground while keeping your back straight.
- Real-life examples: Picking something up off the ground, bending to tie shoes & unloading the dishwasher.
- Exercise suggestion: Deadlift or good morning—targets the hamstrings, glutes & lower back.
CARRY: Involves holding an object and moving it from one place to another.
- Real-life examples: Carrying groceries or luggage, loading/unloading your car & carrying grandkids.
- Exercise suggestion: Farmer’s walk—targets grip strength, upper back & core.
5 Functional Exercises For Seniors—In 1 Gentle Routine
Now that we’ve covered the five fundamental human movements let’s put them into action with a functional exercise routine for seniors. This routine includes five exercises, one for each fundamental human movement.
Do 2 sets of the entire circuit with a short break in between sets. You can scale up or down, depending on your physical abilities, by doing more or less sets or reps. And don’t forget to do a short warm up before starting.
1. PUSH: Wall Push-ups
- Stand facing a wall with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Place your hands on the wall at shoulder height, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Lean towards the wall and push yourself back to the starting position.
- Repeat for 10-15 reps, or whatever your body is capable of.
2. PULL: Bent Over Rows (Resistance Band Or Dumbbells)
- From a standing position, step onto your resistance band, holding the ends in either hand.
- Bend slightly at the knees and hinge forward slightly.
- Bring your elbows straight back, pulling your wrist to your ribcage, keeping your elbows glued to your side.
- Return to starting position & repeat for 10 reps or whatever your body is capable of.
- (You can choose to use dumbbells instead. The movement is the exact same)
3. SQUAT: Chair Squats
- Stand in front of a chair with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Lower yourself towards the chair, keeping your knees behind your toes.
- Touch the chair and push yourself back up to the starting position.
- Repeat for 10 reps or whatever your body is capable of.
4. HINGE: Bodyweight Good Mornings
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.
- Hold your arms straight out to your sides & bend your elbows 90 degrees
- Hinge forward at the hips, keeping your back straight.
- Bring your chest towards the floor as far as you can.
- Return to the starting position & repeat for 10-15 reps, or whatever your body is capable of.
5. CARRY: Farmer’s Walk with Dumbbells
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with a dumbbell in each hand.
- Keeping your back straight, walk forward while carrying the weights at your sides for 20-30 seconds.
- Take small, controlled steps, and focus on keeping your shoulders down and back.
With these 5 functional exercises for seniors you have a short, but effective workout for increasing your overall ability to function better in all the things you do day-to-day.
If you want to increase your functional fitness even more to truly function your absolute best, Better5 has a 5 day program that dedicates a full workout to each of the 5 fundamental movements called “5 Day Class of Essential Fitness Movements For Healthy Aging.”