Our definition of functional training for seniors is:
‘movements designed with the objective of improving a participant’s ability to perform everyday tasks’
These everyday tasks are vital - they enable us to do activities that enrich our lives.
For example, walking more confidently because our balance is steady enables us to get out into our communities and environments; getting in and out of cars with less pain means we can be more social and independent; finding it easier to get up and down from chairs or the floor enables us to pick things up, get things out of low cupboards, or play with younger family members.
Functional exercises most often use multiple muscle groups, that mimic specific movements we do everyday.
Consider a ‘sit to stand’, a movement that uses leg and lower body muscle groups. It replicates getting up and down off a chair, and the toilet, as well as various other actions. Also consider, a step-up, a movement that relies on balance and muscle strength and is integral in walking, and climbing stairs etc.
"The functional ability of [older adults] is crucial to how well they cope with activities of daily living, which in turn affects their quality of life." (World Health Organisation Report - Role of Physical Activity in Healthy Aging, Dr. R Heikkinen).
Getting stronger, becoming more balanced, and more agile enables us to move more confidently through our lives, to be more engaged in what we are doing, and to remain independent for longer.
When we first start with seniors, we sometimes hear these types of comments:
“It’s getting harder to get down on the floor, and then when I’m down there, getting up is much harder than it used to be…” or “it’s getting harder and harder to carry my groceries without help, and I detest having to ask others for help…”
We help people to understand that this does not always have to be the case.
For seniors, incorporating simple yet challenging functional exercise routines into everyday life can be ‘life changing’.