Linda Melone
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Best functional exercises for women over 50

A lot of words and phrases get thrown around in the fitness realm. You hear things like, “engage your core!” “keep a neutral spine!” and, “turn around, you’re on the machine backwards!” All suggestions made with good intent.

Often, people pretend to know the meaning behind these tips when in actuality, they have no clue.

But they’re too embarrassed to say anything because, after all, doesn’t everyone else know?

The answer is a resounding: probably not.

Ditto for “functional fitness.” The good news is I’m about to clear this one up for you right now — and why it’s worth knowing the scoop.

In a nutshell, functional fitness refers to exercises you’d use in real life versus ones that give you bragging rights. They also focus on movement rather than targeting one, specific muscle or muscle group.

In other words, functional exercises allow you to go about your day performing activities without injury.

Bending, lifting and walking without ending up in the ER = functionally fit


An exercise that strengthens your ability to squat down, pick your grandchild and place him in a high chair without you ending up in the ER would be considered functional.

An exercise that enables you to tell your friends you lifted enough weight to embarrass the big guy on the bench next to you would be super cool, but is not as functional. (Although I admit I’m somewhat on board with it for the sheer fun.)

As someone who’s worked in the field and been around gyms for nearly 40 years of my 59 years here on planet earth (not sure why I felt the need to specify which planet, but just in case any of you thought I was otherworldly), it’s interesting to see the differences in goals people have at different phases of their lives.

When I was a mere youngster in my 30s, many of my women clients were over 50. Hitting the half-century mark seemed motivating in itself, which I now “get.”

At the time, however, I did not understand why:

1.They insisted on working out with the overhead fan on at all times
2.They were in no rush to make progress and were satisfied with slow and steady (most, not all)
3. They’d often try to persuade me to sit down and have a cup of tea and forget this whole workout session entirely – and were still willing to pay me for the hour

I, on the other hand, was all about working myself hard and pushing the limits — I was in my 30s, so still indestructible in my mind.

Let’s have a moment of silence for that concept.

Things have changed.

After 50 it’s all about being strong enough and have the endurance to walk up a flight of stairs without joint pain – or the need for a nap after bringing groceries in from the car.

And yes, looking and feeling good in your clothes can’t be brushed aside, either.

The following combination exercises all translate into movements you may encounter in daily life. The combination targets a movement rather than a specific muscle group.

They’re also more challenging, as they involve your total body. I suggest doing them at the start of your regular workout after a thorough warm-up since they require considerable energy. You can even use the first combo as a mini workout for when you’re short on time but would like to get in a little exercise. Two to three sets, 12 or so reps, should be good. 

Squat, biceps and overhead press (pick up your luggage, bring it up to your body and put it in an overhead bin)

Modified Mountain Climbers (a good total body workout move)

Your turn! Do YOU include functional exercises in your regular routine? Will you try one or both of these? Let me know in the comments section below!  

Other posts you may enjoy:

How to exercise when you’re hurting

3 Exercises to tone you all over

7 Ways to get started when you have a long way to go


Your Ageless Body Coach,

P.S. Did you know… I have a membership specifically created for women over 50 like you? Yes, seriously! It’s called the Ageless Army, “army” for the camaraderie you’ll find in it. Check it out HERE. Or email me with any questions. We’d love to have you! 


About the Author Linda Melone

Linda Melone is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, certified trainer and award-winning health and fitness writer. She specializes in helping women over 50 get in shape and lose weight.

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Leave a Comment:

Denise Fordyce says

The trouble is, my body might be 58 but my mind is about 38! I struggle to accept that I can’t do now what i could do then…even if I’m motivated! (which I am)

    Linda Melone says

    Join the club, Denise :). It can be frustrating, I know. The best approach is to focus on what you CAN do instead of what you were able to do in the past. Otherwise it messes with your head and that’s never good, right?

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