And you’re not alone! According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, 61% of adults ages 65 and older are limited in their ability to perform basic actions, such as picking something up off the floor or reaching to grab a cereal box from the pantry.
Functional-fitness exercises are designed to train and develop your muscles to make it easier and safer to perform everyday tasks, such as bathing, dressing, getting out of bed, shopping and driving. As you build strength, activities of daily living become easier to complete.
The National Institutes of Health recommend functional-fitness exercises that support four fitness goals: endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. The good news is many exercises address all four goals at once. Plus, many exercises can be incorporated into your daily routine:
• Walking. Walking is a fantastic exercise for seniors, or anyone, for that matter. Walking strengthens major muscle groups and supports endurance, balance, and flexibility. It also can be done anywhere! Take a walk around your neighborhood or go to the mall. Bring a friend or walk alone, and try to walk every day, even if for 10 minutes at a time.
• Climbing stairs. This everyday activity is great exercise. Climbing stairs strengthens your legs, maintains flexibility in the hip and knee joints, and builds or maintains cardiac endurance. If stairs aren’t readily available for you to use, skip the elevator the next time you visit the doctor, a friend, or the mall, and take the stairs instead.
• Sit to stand. Otherwise known as a chair squat, this exercise is easy to do. Every time you sit down to eat, play cards, read a book, or watch TV, begin by standing in front of your chair, then sit as you normally would. However, before your bottom actually touches the chair, stand up again. Repeat several times.
• Wall push-ups. A great way to improve your upper body strength. Stand slightly less than arm’s length from the wall, close enough to place your palms flat on the wall. Keeping your body straight, bend your elbows, and lean forward toward the wall. Press away from the wall back to your starting position. The closer you are to the wall, the easier the exercise. Start closer and work yourself farther away as you’re able.
Stronger muscles equal better balance and more flexibility. The physical benefits of exercise are clear. But did you know there are emotional benefits to functional fitness, as well?
While you can work out alone, many physical activities involve some sort of social interaction, even if it’s just saying “hello” as you pass someone on the same walking path. Social engagement, however brief, may boost your immune system and your mood — contributing to an overall sense of well-being and happiness. (One more reason to try that group exercise class!)
Staying physically fit can increase your self-confidence. Knowing you’re able to manage daily activities, such as playing with your grandchild or unloading groceries from the car, is important to help maintain a positive attitude.
Moreover, when you’re fit and confident, you can rely on your own independence. Feelings of strength and independence ensure you have control over your own life situation, even as changes arise. And as we all know, aging brings with it many changes!
It’s easy to make excuses not to start a new fitness routine. But the benefits are so great that it makes sense to bite the bullet and start today! It’s never too late to start taking better care of your body and your mind.
Now, walking for walking sake is good for you, no argument there since that is what this post is all about. But in order to commit to it on a regular basis, you need to have some goals set for yourself. Humans, by nature, are a competitive lot. We are all bred for a challenge and once accomplished, we look for another one. Getting fit and staying fit is no less of a challenge than say, our ancestors looking to provide food for their tables. We may not be going to that extreme. But if we are looking to not only stay fit but also work our minds and bodies so that they can serve us for many years in the future. We also need to set goals to challenge ourselves to reach.
Once you set a goal, you need to be able to verify that you have reached it. The best way to do this is to track your distance, the time it's taken you to get there and if possible, the number of calories you burned in the process. One way to do this is to use a good reliable pedometer.
One such pedometer is the Omron Alvita Ultimate Pedometer Hj325.
Grab, Go, Track! Every step you take gets you closer to a healthier lifestyle, so why not find out how many steps you are taking each day with Omron's Alvita Ultimate Pedometer (HJ-325). This small and lightweight pedometer features Omron's validated tri-axis technology allowing you to stow it in your pocket or purse and still get an accurate step count, while also offering the traditional option of wearing it on your hip with the enclosed holder.
It tracks steps, aerobic steps (a.k.a. Healthy steps), distance walked, and calories burned for better health tracking. Your stride is automatically calculated based on height and weight for an easy set-up. And it stores the previous 7 days of your activity, which is accessible on display for viewing. It also has a Low Battery indicator and battery saving mode to let you know when it needs to be replaced, just to make sure you don't lose any steps and help extend its battery life.
Using a device like the Omron Alvita HJ325 will let you know just how well you're really doing and help keep you focused and motivated to not only reach your walking, distance, and time goals but more importantly, to surpass them!
By committing to getting more active, you’re going to be surprised at just how much better you’re going to be feeling in a short amount of time and you just might find it a bit easier to be able to bend down and pick up that morning newspaper off of the sidewalk. It may not be that hammer we mentioned earlier, but you get our meaning.
Happy Walking, Happy Health!
(As with any new exercise, check with your doctor before beginning a functional-fitness program.)