Posted on December 27, 2023 in 2024 January, Lifestyle and Wellness

Daily Functional Exercises

by admin

Have you ever walked around the grocery store, stocked up on goodies for a Superbowl party or holiday meal, and then loaded and unloaded the car in a single afternoon and thought, “whew, that felt like a workout?”

It’s because it was — just maybe not in the sense of bodybuilding, running endlessly on a treadmill, or suffering through a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout. And while those options certainly check the box for fitness, there are other means — often more accessible and safer for certain people — that help keep you healthy and mobile.

Functional fitness focuses on and prioritizes replicating and practicing movements we use in our everyday lives. This is important for everyone, but it can be especially critical for those who are aging or struggle with mobility in their daily lives when moving heavier objects, carrying groceries, or even tossing a ball or swinging a bat while playing baseball with friends. Functional exercises help build flexibility, balance, and strength, improve athletic performance, and prevent injuries by moving large groups of muscles across your body rather than targeting a specific body part. The goal of the exercises is muscle movement.

Here are some examples of functional fitness exercises:

Farmer’s Walk

This exercise is quite simple. It requires you to pick up a weight in each hand (dumbbells, kettlebells, soup cans, bags of potatoes, etc.) and walk — that’s it! You want to make sure you use good form while picking up the weight, keep your shoulders back and posture tight, keep your core engaged and head up, and take even, manageable steps (leading with your hips).

Incorporating the Farmer’s Walk into your routine will help challenge and build your arms, shoulders, core, and grip strength, as well as your quads, hamstrings, and calves lower down.

The Farmer’s Walk is the definition of a functional exercise because who doesn’t have to lift, carry, and move objects from place to place? We do this when pulling out or putting away holiday décor, grocery shopping, or even carrying loads of laundry around the house.

Once you get comfortable with the Farmer’s Walk and want to increase the difficulty, try carrying heavier weights or lengthening your steps.


Mastering one of the most fundamental functional exercises — squats — will lend itself to so much to your daily activities. The movement, strength, and skill you get from squats can help when you are getting off the ground, picking up larger or heavier objects, or even doing yard work. Squats can help target your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and shoulders.

A simple bodyweight squat is a great starting point. You stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and lower into a squat by bending your knees (don’t let them go further out past your toes) while shifting your hips back. While you’re moving down into the squat, extend your arms out in front of you to help maintain balance and work your shoulder movement. You want to try to keep a straight back the whole time since the movement is coming from your hips and lower.

There are so many variations of the squat, and you can modify it for where you are in your fitness journey. An assisted bodyweight squat is a good place to begin if you are nervous about your overall mobility and balance. You hold onto a stable fixture (like a fixed pole or ballet bar) while you get comfortable with the squat movement. You can also do a wall squat, where you keep your back pressed up against the wall as you squat down. This helps you focus on form and not strain your lower back.

If you’re looking to up the challenge, try holding weights while doing your squats, or consider a jump squat. The jump squat will have you jump up into the air when you come out of the squat and then land carefully before quickly squatting back down again. Be sure you have enough skill for this progression and are using proper form when landing on your feet so you don’t cause an injury.

Other Functional Fitness Movements

There’s no shortage of exercises to choose from when building out a routine — something to keep in mind if you tend to get bored easily. Here are some great examples you can incorporate into your exercising and modify to meet your needs:

  • Lunges (walking, reverse, jump — a variety of options!)
  • Mountain Climber
  • Bear Crawl
  • Pushups (classic, wall pushup, knee pushup, single-arm pushup)
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Planks (traditional, side plank, single-arm plank, dumbbell plank rows)
  • Bridges
  • Burpees

As always, use caution when performing new movements or consult your physician or a physical therapist if you have past injuries or concerns.