3 exercises for graceful aging

Functional fitness for our wiser years

Have you heard of functional fitness? It refers to exercises that mimic movements in the exerciser’s everyday life: squatting to pick something up, twisting and reaching under load, lifting something overhead away from the centerline of your body, and so on. And yes, it may be key to aging gracefully.

Studies have shown that increasing physical activity has insular effects against not only cardiovascular disease and physical ineptitude, but also cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. So with this in mind, why wouldn’t you?

The functional workout

Check out these three everyday movements that will keep you long, strong, and bendy.

Assisted Deep Squat

3 sets of 10 repetitions

Muscles targeted: glutes, quads, hamstrings, core, lats

  • Find a solid object to hold onto that won’t move, such as a stop sign pole, a bike rack, or the back of a couch. Stand roughly three-quarters of your arm’s-length away, with your feet about shoulder-width apart, and toes turned out at 45 degrees.
  • While maintaining as tall a posture as possible through your neck and spine (chin neutral) let your hips sink straight down as close to the ground as possible, ensuring that your knees track outward, toward your toes, and that your heels remain glued to the floor.
  • When you reach the bottom of your squat, take a deep inhale, and then push through your heels to stand back up to starting position, ensuring that your knees continue to track over your toes until you’re standing fully.

Assisted Single-Leg, Straight-Leg Deadlift, with a One-Arm Row

3 sets of 10 repetitions 

Muscles targeted: hamstring, core, rhomboids, glutes, biceps

  • Find a solid object to hold onto at about waist height that won’t move, such as a stop sign pole, a bike rack, or the back of a couch. Stand roughly three-quarters of your arm’s length away, and hold on with your left hand.
  • With your weight in your right heel and toes facing straight forward, imagine that your body (from the back of your head to your left heel) is nailed to a board, and slowly hinge your upper body forward like a see-saw, reaching your right hand toward the floor.
  • Once you find the end range of the tension in the back of your leg (hopefully with at least your fingertips touching the floor) take a deep inhale, and then exhale and raise to starting position.

Good Morning Rows

3 sets of 10 repetitions

Muscles targeted: hamstrings, rhomboids, glutes, traps

  • Begin with a weight in your hands (a full laundry basket will do!), feet hip-width apart, maintaining a neutral chin and a flat back throughout the entire exercise.
  • Hinge forward at the hips and allow your arms and the laundry basket to freely float forward underneath you, with minimal knee bend, until the tension in your legs and maybe lower back don’t allow you to bend any further down.
  • Take a deep exhale as you pull the laundry basket in toward your belly button, being careful not to shrug your shoulders. Allow the basket to go back down and inhale. Exhale and return to starting position by pushing your hips forward and pulling your shoulder blades down.

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