A friend of mine plays golf five days a week and does little else for exercise. He defends his inactivity and relatively poor diet by extolling the longevity of his parents. His mother lived into her late nineties, his father mid-nineties. His grandparents were also long-lived. He believes that his genes will provide him with all he needs.
This approach to life ignores the very real issue of functional fitness. This is the ability to perform everyday functions in life such as tying our shoes, lifting grocery bags from the trunk of a car, walking on an uneven surface, catching ourself when we stumble, and walking up and down stairs comfortably.
As we age, we have to work at retaining coordination, balance, core strength and flexibility. This involves performing exercises that challenge our body by working out on wobbly, uneven surfaces or doing exercises while standing on one leg, for example.
Many functional exercises can be performed at home with minimal equipment as well as at a fitness center. If you don’t belong to a fitness center, Google “Functional Fitness Exercises” and you’ll find numerous websites with instructions on how to perform specific exercises. Some require equipment, others don’t.
If you belong to a fitness center, my advice is to ask for a trainer who is experienced in this category and sign up for one or more sessions. It will be money well spent.
A year ago I was cycling with my group in southwest Florida and we had to ride on a sidewalk for a stretch due to road repair work. I inadvertently got my front tire in a crack in the sidewalk and was headed towards a serious fall that could have taken me into oncoming traffic. Fortunately, I managed to unclip my foot and stretch it out for stability, averting a spill. I think the balance and coordination exercises I’d been doing made the difference.
Note: This article originally appears in the News-Press, Fort Myers, FL on February 18, 2014.