A Focus on Functional Fitness is Critical for Middle-Age Women

Patient Expert

It's getting time for those New Year's resolutions. Many folks always put exercise more on their list, often focusing on a way to lose weight. I plan to exercise more, but my focus now is more on being able to physically do things. I've found as I've reached middle-age, it (at times) is more difficult to accomplish tasks. For instance, I can't heft the boxes that I used to lift with ease in my 20s. I now have more aches (a stiff index figure and achy hips) and pains (a pulled planter fasciitis, lower back pain). And I've found that many of my female friends who are around my age are experiencing similar challenges.

As we age, exercise needs to become an integral part of our lives. "Exercise is particularly important for midlife women because of its preventive powers but also for its ability to alleviate certain menopause symptoms," wrote Barbara Seaman and Laura Eldridge in "The No-Nonsense Guide to Menopause." "Menopause is also a great time to make changes that will help your health for the rest of your life. The National Institute on Aging explains, 'When older people lose their ability to do things on their own, it doesn't happen just because they have aged. More likely it is because they have become inactive. Older inactive adults lose ground in four areas that are important for staying healthy and independent: endurance, strength, balance and flexibility.'"

Enter the concept of functional fitness. "Functional fitness and functional exercise are the latest gym buzzwords," Gina Shaw wrote for WebMD. "They focus on building a body capable of doing real-life activities in real-life positions, not just lifting a certain amount of weight in an idealized posture created by a gym machine." And it turns out that functional fitness is a growing interest, ranking seventh on the top 20 fitness trends in 2010 by the American College of Sports Medicine, as reported by Richard Cotton, the National Director of Certification in a presentation entitled, "Fitness Trends for Exercise Professionals: the Myths the Facts and the Opportunities."

Functional fitness consists of developing core fitness areas in the abdominal muscular system and the back, as well as creating functional strength in the extremities. The goal of functional fitness is to promote strength, flexibility, balance, and an active life. Trainer Carey Kepler has created a series of videos which show a variety of functional exercises.

And one of the benefits of functional fitness is that it can help you avoid the variety of pills or surgery that the health system otherwise may offer you to deal with your aches and pains. In "Functional Fitness: Look Younger, Stay Active Longer," Dr. Paul D'Arezzo notes that functional fitness can "prevent and forestall some of the muscle and joint changes we common associate with aging." Furthermore, this type of exercise can help relieve discomfort that you already have. "Sometimes only a small improvement in strength, flexibility, or body alignment is enough to take pressure off an area that is being rubbed raw, or provide relief for muscles that have been going into spasm," D'Arezzo said.

"Doing something now can be enough to prevent the onset or progression of certain types of arthritis or the need for joint replacement surgery in the future."

I hope you will consider functional fitness an investment into your physical future and a worthwhile New Year's resolution to adopt as we enter 2011