Want to fight off old age? Get into functional fitness

Functional fitness is a phrase that’s been kicking around for some years now. In fact, it regularly shows up on those lists of top fitness trends we see every January.

But how many people know what it means, let alone think about what it might mean to them?  If you’re feeling stiffer, more achy, weaker, less sure-footed, or less agile than you used to be, functional fitness is a concept you need to know.

Simply put, functional fitness means training your body for the activities of daily life. It’s not about looking good in a bathing suit or outcompeting your younger neighbor. It’s a practical approach designed to help you handle everyday movements with ease, and without pain or risk of injury, no matter what your age.

How do you get there? Cardio sessions and yoga classes are good, but they’re not enough. What’s needed is a holistic approach that addresses five dimensions of your body’s functioning:

Core strength & stability – Your core muscles are your body’s support structure; they’re also the drivers and stabilizers for everything you do.  A weak core increases risks of falling and is often the root cause of back pain.

Flexibility – When joints are stiff and muscles are shortened by inactivity, movements are limited or distorted. Some muscles are underused and other overused, leading to aches, pains, and injuries.

Balance –Balance issues are often overlooked in fitness routines, but shouldn’t be. One in three Americans over 65 suffers a fall each year.

Muscular strength – As we age, we steadily lose lean muscle mass if we’re not doing something to build it–and those losses accelerate after the age of 50. That’s why strength training is even more important for older people than for younger adults. (Here’s my advice on how to get started.)

Cardiovascular endurance – Regularly challenging your cardiovascular system is essential to being fit. The sweet spot is an intensity level you can maintain for 30 minutes but still elevates your heart rate and breathing.

In future posts I’ll talk about what to do for functional fitness and how to get it all done efficiently. If you want the whole story, you can find it in Chapters 3 and 4 of my book, Just Move!

Image: Black Swan Photographers

By |2018-06-29T19:32:35+00:00June 29th, 2018|Fitness Over 50, Functional Fitness, Just Move!|Comments Off on Want to fight off old age? Get into functional fitness

A Walk Isn’t Just Good Exercise. It’s Also a Chance to Practice Walking

It may sound strange to think about practicing something we’ve all been doing since we were toddlers.  But going for a walk is a perfect opportunity to generally improve the ways you move. Use your walks as a chance to focus on:

Body awareness – Pay close attention to how you’re moving.  Are your strong glute and thigh muscles driving your movement? Is your body relaxed as you stride?  Ideally, you’re moving forward in a smooth, slightly rolling motion with your arms swing loosely in opposition to your step (your left arm swinging forward as you step with your right foot, and the reverse).

Posture – Remind yourself to keep your chest up and pelvis tucked, so your backbone is in its neutral, slightly S-curved position. Pull your shoulder blades together in the back, letting your arms hang at your side. Try to keep your neck in line with your back and your chin up.  Think of this as your “proud walk” –straight and tall.

Breathing – Inflate your lungs fully as you’re moving, and exhale slowly until they are emptied. Not only will this send more oxygen through your system, it will encourage good posture.

Gait – Many hip and knee problems can be eased by correcting issues with gait, which can be subtle.  A good trainer or physical therapist can spot dysfunctional habits you may want to work on. Meanwhile, are your feet and knees pointed in the direction you’re going, or do they drift inward or outward? Do your feet maintain their arches, and are they aligned with your hips? Does your walk demonstrate economy of motion, or does it involve extraneous movements, like arms pumping from side to side?

When you turn your walks into mini-training sessions, you’ll be building good habits of movement every time you hit the walking trail.

By |2018-06-22T20:36:28+00:00June 22nd, 2018|Uncategorized|Comments Off on A Walk Isn’t Just Good Exercise. It’s Also a Chance to Practice Walking