It’s the New Year and a great time to review and re-engage in health and fitness exercises. The National Institutes of Health recommend functional fitness exercises that support four fitness goals for seniors: endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility.
Many exercises and activities can address all four goals combined. Plus, most exercises work together to reinforce each other’s benefits. Increased endurance leads to more exercise, which builds strength and supports flexibility and improves balance. Here are four very effective functional fitness exercises for seniors. They are simple, safe, and can be done almost anywhere. Please keep in mind, if you’re just starting an exercise program or have physical limitations, it’s important to check with your doctor to make sure the exercises are right and safe for you.
Walking is possibly the single best exercise for seniors — or anyone, really. Walking addresses all four types of functional fitness goals. In particular, it strengthens major muscle groups, and it supports endurance, balance, and flexibility. The fact that it can be done anywhere is a real plus. A walk in nature is not only good for the body, but good for the soul as well. Walking with a friend or family member can turn mundane exercise into a rewarding social event. If you’re not already a regular walker, are rehabilitating an injury, or have other physical limitations, be sure to start out slowly. Even ten minutes a day of normal paced walking can be effective. Build up speed and duration as your body allows.
2. Climbing Stairs
This one is really good for strengthening your legs, maintaining flexibility in the hip and knee joints, and even building or maintaining cardiac endurance. For most of us, stairs are pretty available and convenient to use. But if that’s not the case for you, skip the elevator the next time you visit the doctor, a friend, or the mall, and take the stairs instead.
3. Sit to Stand
Also called a chair squat, this exercise is simple and easy to do. You can do it every time you sit down, whether to eat, play cards, watch TV, or engage in any other seated activity. Begin by standing in front of your chair, and then sit as you normally would. However, before you actually touch the chair or transfer weight to it, stand up again. Repeat several times.
4. Wall Push-Ups
This exercise can help improve upper body strength, especially in your arms and chest. 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. Then press away from the wall to your starting position. The closer you are to the wall, the easier the exercise will be. Start closer and work yourself farther away, as your are able.
To further prove the benefits of exercise, watch this video to see how functional fitness has impacted the lives of our residents.