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Functional Training for Senior Strength

Functional fitness describes the level of a person’s muscular strength, cardiovascular endurance, balance, and flexibility which are all needed to perform everyday activities effectively and without difficulty or injury.

These activities include the simplest movements such as getting up from bed (is it difficult to move to the edge of the bed, push yourself up from lying down and stand up?), getting up and down from the toilet (is your lower back well enough to let you do this with ease?), or even carrying heavy things (have you ever found it difficult to carry bags of groceries into the house?). Other examples include managing to squat down to pick something up from the floor and climbing up and down the flight of stairs.

The fact that it encompasses everyday situations, the concept of functional fitness should be important to people of all ages and ability levels. Whether one is active or just wants to improve his or her ability to perform in sports or hobbies, or wants to leave a sedentary lifestyle and find functional fitness is for you. It is key to longevity, staying strong, mobile, and independent.

Here are exercises that focus on strength, balance, and confidence in moving. Perform each 2 to 3 times a week, starting with 5 to 10 repetitions of each exercise at a time, with good form. One should slowly work his way up to the suggested number of repetitions for each exercise. Muscle soreness is not a bad thing, but stop an exercise if it causes you pain. Listening to one’s
body is important.


  • Strengthens the lower body muscles that are essential for being able to get up from a couch, chair, or the toilet.
  • How to do it:
    1. Begin by standing in front of a sturdy chair with your feet at least shoulder-width apart.
    2. Bend your knees and bend forward at the waist, and slowly lower yourself down to a seated position in the chair.
    3. Push through the heels and squeeze the buttocks as you return to standing. Perform 1 to 3 sets of 10 reps


  • Helps you climb stairs and safely conquer curbs. It targets the quadriceps and gluteal muscles in your legs to build strength.
  • How to do it:
    1. Begin by standing in front of a bottom stair, facing the stairway. Make sure you have a rail to hold onto for safety.
    2. Place one foot on the bottom stair.
    3. Without pulling on the railing, step up onto the bottom stair. Be careful not to “hop” onto the stair, but rather use the leg muscles to perform a controlled step-up motion.
    4. Slowly step back down to the starting point. Perform 1 to 3 sets of 10 reps on each leg

Wall Push-ups

  • Strengthens the arms, chest, and upper back to prepare you for such tasks as pushing a heavy door open, using your arms to help you push when standing up from a chair, and to help bring yourself to a position where you can get up from the floor if you fall.
  • How to do it:
    1. Begin by standing 2-3 feet in front of a wall. (The further away from the wall you stand, the harder the exercise will be.)
    2. Place your hands at chest-height on the wall in front of you with arms outstretched, about shoulder-width apart.
    3. Slowly bend your elbows and lower your chest toward the wall.
    4. Push with your arms to return to the starting position. Perform 1 to 3 sets of 10 reps.


  • Strengthens the gluteal muscles, lower back, and core muscles. They are the most helpful exercise for moving around when lying in bed, and help you move to the side of the bed in preparation to get up.
  • How to do it:
    1. Begin by lying on your back in bed or on a yoga mat on the floor with your knees bent.
    2. Tighten your abdominal (core) muscles and squeeze your buttocks.
    3. Raise your buttocks off of the bed / floor, as if creating a “bridge” with your body.
    4.  Slowly lower back down to the starting position. Perform 1 to 3 sets of 10 reps.


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