Is Functional Fitness the Key to Aging Gracefully?
Trends in diets, discouraged foods, and fitness ebb and flow with popularity. A trendy style of exercise is called functional fitness. Simply, it means focusing on strengthening everyday movements that not only increase muscle tone, but increase balance and coordination allowing you to accomplish household tasks easier.
As we age our bodies lose muscle, mobility and flexibility which can hinder the aging’s ability to live life to their fullest. Simple tasks like carrying groceries, putting boxes on a shelf or vacuuming can bring pain, or become unable to be completed. Functional fitness is a program that involves exercises that utilize multiple muscle joints and muscles that mimic everyday movements. Even the U.S. Army understands the benefits of functional fitness, presently requiring (since 2012) it’s fitness programs to include these concepts to ensure that it’s soldiers can handle the packs and responsibilities they have. Cardio is a part of a weight loss program but it doesn’t help reduce that decline in muscle as we age. A study that the American Council on Exercise held followed a small group of older adults that were already physically active and asked them to follow a functional fitness program. Their shoulder flexibility was improved by 43%! This then improved their lower and upper body strength, subsequently improving their agility and balance which improved their quality of life. (Consumer Reports on Health-Sept. 2013)
No one is disagreeing the importance of retaining mobility to mental and physical health as we age. Many studies show that when the aging has reduced functionality, depression and health related illness rise dramatically. For optimum health benefits, functional fitness should be a part of a total-fitness plan including cardio, balance fitness such as yoga, tae-chi, Pilates or stretching. The use of foam rollers are a critical aspect of my functional fitness plan.
I am 48 years old and often have delayed muscle soreness stemming from the different types of exercise I do. Using a foam roller allows me to realize similar benefits as sports massage including reducing inflammation, scar tissue and joint stress as well as improving circulation in sore areas. It can improve overall flexibility and range of motion, helping with everyday activities. There are different softness levels , lengths and textures. Try several and even consider ‘graduating’ to a different type as you become more proficient with the one you began with.
Remaining mobile and agile as we age will reap benefits many do not think of in advance of the situation, but should. Remember the importance for yourself and for family members that you may be helping to care for.