What Is Functional Mobility and How Do You Find It?

by | Jul 3, 2024 | Exercise Tips, Move Better, Water Exercise

As we age, maintaining mobility and living pain-free becomes increasingly important. For those over 50, functional mobility is the key to staying active, independent, and living your best life. Whether you’re a seasoned water workout enthusiast or just dipping your toes in, understanding and improving functional mobility can transform your daily life.

What is Functional Mobility?

Functional mobility refers to the ability to move freely and easily to perform everyday activities. It’s not just about flexibility or strength, but a combination of both, along with balance and coordination. Functional mobility enables you to bend, reach, walk, climb stairs, and even get up from a chair without difficulty or pain (or making strange noises!). It’s about having the physical capability to handle the movements and tasks life throws at you.


Benefits of Functional Mobility


Improving functional mobility offers numerous benefits, especially for those over 50:

1. Pain reduction

We can wave goodbye to any daily aches and pains when we’re increasing mobility and finding a balanced muscular range—this reduces the strain on joints and alleviates pain.

2. Injury prevention

Not only are we shifting away from pain, but better balance, strength, and coordination reduce the risk of falls and other injuries; we’re less likely to find ourselves in pain than otherwise.

3. Increased independence

There’s a notion that getting older means we need to rely on others more for daily support. But improved mobility means you can perform daily tasks more easily and without help, maintaining your independence.

4. Enhanced quality of life

Fancy a walk along the beach? A long game of golf? Or a vacation that might involve stairs? Being pain-free and mobile allows you to enjoy these things, and anything else that comes your way, boosting your sense of wellbeing and overall happiness.

5. Better Physical Health

To top it all off, the exercises that improve your functional mobility also improve cardiovascular health, muscle strength, and flexibility, contributing to overall fitness, health, and your energy levels.


How Do We Track Functional Mobility?


Tracking your functional mobility involves assessing your ability to perform specific movements and tasks. Here are a few simple tests and metrics:

1. Sit-to-Stand Test

This 30-second chair stand test measures lower body strength and endurance. The hands are crossed across the chest while the person counts how many sit-to-stand repetitions can be done in 30 seconds. This test is used to measure lower body strength and endurance, as well as balance and coordination, by recording the number of sit-to-stand repetitions completed in 30 seconds. The results can be used to identify areas of the body that need to be improved and to create a personalized exercise plan to help reach optimal performance.


2. 6-Minute Walk Test

This walk test is a measure of aerobic endurance in which a participant walks as fast as possible between two targets in a waist or chest-high flat course for six minutes. At the starting point, you should pivot briskly and count one lap per turn. At the end of the six minutes record the total number of laps completed. This simple test is an excellent tool for assessing your aerobic endurance.


3. Balance Tests

The Romberg Test is a balance test that requires the participant to stand with feet close together and arms crossed, with either eyes open or closed. A “sharpened Romberg” variation is performed with one foot placed ahead of the other. This test is scored by measuring the amount of time the subject is able to balance with eyes closed and is determined as a loss of balance when increased body sway, placing one foot in the direction of the fall, or falling, occurs.


By performing these tests every 5-6 weeks, you can monitor your progress and identify areas that need improvement. Wavemakers includes all of these evidence-based assessments – Sit-to-Stand, 6-min Walk Test, Balance Test. Find these tests inside Wavemakers here.


Best Workouts for Functional Mobility


Yoga for Functional Mobility

Yoga is excellent for improving functional mobility due to its focus on flexibility, strength, and balance. Here are a few yoga poses that are particularly beneficial:

  1. Cat-cow pose: improves spinal flexibility and core strength.
  2. Warrior II pose: builds lower body strength and balance.
  3. Chair pose: increases strength in the legs and improves balance.
  4. Tree pose: a balancing pose that strengthens the legs and core.


Water Workouts for Functional Mobility

Water workouts are particularly beneficial for functional mobility as they reduce the impact on joints while providing resistance to build strength. Here are some effective exercises:

  1. Water walking or jogging: Great for cardiovascular health and lower body strength. Move in different directions (forward, backward, sideways) to engage various muscles (learn more about water walking here).
  2. Leg lifts and kicks: these movements strengthen the lower body and improve flexibility. Hold onto the pool edge for support if needed.
  3. Arm circles and swings: improve your upper body strength and flexibility with circles and swings. Vary the hand positions to adjust resistance and intensity.
  4. Aqua Yoga: Incorporates yoga poses adapted for the pool environment, combining the benefits of yoga and water exercise.


The Takeaway


Improving functional mobility through yoga and water workouts can profoundly impact your life, keeping you active, pain-free, and independent. Whether you’re new to these exercises or looking to deepen your practice, the journey to better mobility is one worth taking.

Ready to jump-start your mobility? Join us inside Wavemakers for Functional Mobility, a 28-day guided program to help you move towards a healthier body and stay strong. These sessions emphasize movement diversity as you push, pull, lift, reach, and turn in ways that mirror everyday activities, making sure you’re always ready for whatever comes your way.


Laurie Denomme

Laurie Denomme

an exercise coach dedicated to helping you move better and be your best everyday.

Want to build mobility & strength?

Get two FREE audio workouts from Laurie to get bigger results from every workout.