Functional Fitness Training Exercises for Seniors

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Functional fitness training is a way to support and improve performance in everyday activities. We all know exercise is important for anyone at any age. But it is especially important as we get older into our senior years.

As we get older, everyday activities, things we often take for granted, like walking up a staircase, or carrying a bag of groceries, become harder than they used to.

By keeping up with our functional fitness, we can strengthen our ability to move through life and keep our independence and quality of life as we get older.

In this article, I’ll share 8 functional fitness training exercises for seniors that you should incorporate into your daily life.

What Are Functional Training Exercises?

Functional fitness training exercises are designed to strengthen and develop your muscles to make performing activities in your day-to-day life easier and safer.

Functional training exercises replicate the movements you would perform in the real world. These include things many of us take for granted, like walking up a staircase while carrying a bag or bending down to tie a shoelace.

Functional exercises focus on building strength, mobility, and balance to help us navigate through our day. Functional fitness prioritizes free weight movements over machine exercises. These include movements like lunges, squats, and pushups.

Benefits of Functional Fitness Training

Because in the real world, there isn’t going to be a machine that is going to support you in position and allow you to isolate a single muscle.

In the real world, you have to be able to maintain balance and stabilize your entire body to move together as a unit.


Balance is the ability to keep yourself in a steady stable position. And is another essential component of functional training.

As people get older, and physical activity is neglected, their muscles weaken, reducing the mobility and strength of their joints and bones, and increasing the risk of a fall.

Functional training not only strengthens muscles but improves our mind-to-muscle connection, improving balance.


Mobility is a privilege many of us take for granted when we have it. Mobility is the ability to move freely and with ease. A senior limited by mobility issues can’t perform many activities used in daily living.

If a senior has stiffness or pain in their knees or hips, for example, it could limit their ability to even move around in their home. And they may feel discouraged from engaging in activities they used to do.

And the more they avoid movement, the weaker their muscles and joints become, increasing the risk of more health issues and injury.


Strength is the ability to handle and withstand stress. Studies have found one of the biggest indicators of a person’s longevity is their grip strength.

Without enough strength, a senior’s life will quickly decline and become restricted. They won’t be able to enjoy the same quality of life they would otherwise. Strength makes life easier. 

Functional training has become more popular in recent years, as people are realizing that only doing exercises on machines, has less carryover to strengthening our movements in the real world, and therefore is not as functional.

In the past, it was thought that by helping to stabilize and guide the muscles through the movements, machines could help reduce the risk of injury while exercising.

But, by doing so, they don’t train your body to maintain balance or stability, like you would in the real world. 

One of the benefits of functional training is that they require little to no equipment to perform, and many exercises can be done at home with a pair of dumbbells or even with body weight. This is especially beneficial for seniors who may have difficulty getting themselves to a gym.

Functional training exercises are compound exercises, meaning that they train multiple muscle groups at a time. When we do a machine exercise like the hamstring curl, we are only training the hamstring muscle, which is the muscle in the back of the upper leg.

But when we train in a functional exercise like the dumbbell lunge, we are not only training more muscles in our legs, but we are also training the muscles in our back, and core, as well as improving muscular coordination and balance.

Compound exercises train the whole body to get stronger, and teach the body to move as a unit, creating meaningful strength that has carryover in real-world activities.

Training compound exercises will result in more improvements in balance and stability compared to an isolation exercise.

Exercises like the squat help make everyday tasks like moving a piece of furniture, or changing a car tire, easier and reduce your chance of injuring a muscle or tendon.

These exercises also make your body more durable, reducing your chance of breaking something during a fall, which is especially important for older people.

Why Functional Fitness is Important

Muscle weaknesses and or muscle imbalances can often result in poor movement patterns, causing pain or even injury, greatly diminishing a person’s quality of life.

And unfortunately, are commonplace in many everyday people. And many seniors have been dealing with these conditions for years, if not decades. 

This is a particularly pressing problem for seniors, whose bones are also losing density, and are more vulnerable to breaking in the case of a fall.

And even worse, many seniors who are experiencing pain with movement, limit themselves from physical activity, making their muscles even weaker, and leaving themselves even more vulnerable to experiencing more pain and injury.

Fortunately, things don’t have to be this way. By training for functional fitness, we can improve our weaknesses, fix muscle imbalances, and lower our chances of injury and or developing problems with chronic pain.

And by doing so, improve our quality of life. Even in older age, we can get stronger, and movement can improve.

Functional training exercises mimic the movements you would perform in your everyday life. They can help improve performance in sports, reduce pain, prevent injury, and strengthen your ability to handle other everyday tasks.

Functional training exercises can also help improve bone density and improve movement patterns.

And is not only beneficial physically, can also help improve and maintain cognitive function and spatial awareness. Exercise not only helps strengthen our bodies but helps our brains function as well.

Functional Fitness Training Exercises for Seniors

Functional fitness exercises should focus on enhancing strength, mobility, and balance. A well-thought-out functional training workout should include all three aspects of functional training.

And should not neglect other aspects of fitness. Workouts should also enhance muscular and cardiovascular endurance.

8 Exercises you need to be strong in life

Here are 8 simple beginner functional fitness training exercises for seniors. These exercises can be performed with minimal equipment, so they can easily be done at home. 

1. Box squats

Muscles trained: lower body (legs, hips), core, lower back

Activities it supports: mimics picking up and lifting objects, getting in and out of chairs, car seats, etc.

2. Step-ups

Muscles trained: lower body (legs, hips), core, lower back, hands, and forearms (trains grip strength if using dumbbells)

Activities it supports: mimics walking, climbing up and down stairs, and maintaining balance and stability while moving. 

3. Romanian deadlift

Muscles trained: lower body (legs, hips), core, lower back, hands, and forearms (trains grip strength if using dumbbells)

Activities it supports: picking up objects off the floor, unloading the laundry or dishwasher, raking or shoveling 

4. Pushups

Muscles trained: chest, triceps, shoulders, core

Activities it supports: pushing a cart or lawn mower, breaking a fall, lifting objects up onto a shelf, tasks requiring upper body strength

5. Bridge

Muscles trained: core muscles, lower back, glutes, hamstrings

Activities it supports: walking, picking up objects, putting on pants, crouching, getting in and out of cars

6. Single arm bent over rows

Muscles trained: upper back, biceps, core, forearms and 

Activities it supports: pulling objects, carrying groceries, opening doors or drawers, pulling yourself up from a seat

7. Farmers walk

Muscles trained: lower body (legs, hips), core, lower back, hands, and forearms (trains grip strength if using dumbbells)

Activities it supports: carrying luggage, walking, maintaining balance while moving


Muscles trained: lower body (legs, hips), core, lower back

Activities it supports: general mobility, moving around the home and outside 

8. Stretches

Flexibility is an important part of maintaining good joint mobility. Tight muscles lead to muscle imbalances and poor joint alignment.

This creates the perfect setting for developing pain, or worse, injury. A few minutes of stretching every day or after each workout can help avoid these problems and keep our joints mobile and feeling good.  

Here are four simple stretches to get you started. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 2-4 times.

  • Overhead side stretch
  • Shoulder crossbody stretch
  • Doorway chest stretch
  • Hamstring stretch


Now you know what functional training is and why it is so important for seniors. Growing older doesn’t mean we have to slow down or stop going out and doing the things we love.

By keeping up with your functional fitness, you can keep your body strong and your mind sharp. And maintain your independence and quality of life.

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