Staying active and fit is important at any age. And as we age, maintaining functional fitness is especially important. If you haven't heard of functional fitness, you can think of it as the ability to engage in the activities of daily life — walking, shopping, cleaning, driving, playing with the grandkids — with ease and comfort. The key to doing so is engaging in movement that focuses on four key areas: strength, flexibility, endurance, and balance.
The building blocks of functional fitness
Strength is the foundation of movement. Maintaining our strength means we can keep moving. When we move, we are naturally practicing balance. With strength and balance, we can engage in more activities that build endurance and flexibility. It's easy to see how it’s all connected, and how important it is to keep exercising. It doesn’t have to be formal “exercise” at your local gym, but it is really about keeping moving. Walking every day is a great example. Parking the car farther from the grocery store door, walking around the block, and taking an extra trip up and down a flight of stairs all count as good, solid exercise!
Another way to think of exercise or daily movement is as practice for our bodies. Just as a concert pianist practices every day to keep their fingers in shape for performances, we also need to keep our whole bodies in shape for life’s everyday activities.
That’s where functional fitness really comes in. A good functional fitness program, like that offered by The Goodman Group, will target the four key areas of practice:
- Strength – Building and maintaining muscle strength and function
- Flexibility – Keeping joints and muscles supple and moving with ease
- Endurance – Sustaining movement that improves cardiovascular health
- Balance – Staying secure and strong on our feet, a key to preventing falls
Getting started with functional fitness
Look for a program that customizes activities based on your specific needs, such as your fitness level, overall health, and fitness goals. It should especially take into consideration any physical restrictions you may have, whether they are short- or long-term.
If you’re relatively new to a more structured exercise program, keep in mind that starting out slowly and building with practice is the most effective — and safe — way to go. Well-trained instructors will be able to help you decide what’s realistic and comfortable for your individual needs.
Aside from the obvious physical benefits of exercise, there are other reasons to keep active. These include improved brain function, reduced stress and improved mood, increased social engagement, and overall enjoyment of life.