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    Functional Fitness and Vitality

    By Cinder Ernst–

    Vitality is defined by Oxford as “the state of being strong and active.” I define fitness as “having the strength and stamina to do the things you want to do” (and not by the way you look). With these concepts in mind, fitness is a way to achieve vitality.

    Functional fitness is strength training in a way that will improve function so that you can do the things you want to do. Your desire for function will differ from someone else’s desire, but how you get there is the same. You start where you are and build strength with consistent small steps while you gradually increase the degree of difficulty.

    Often with functional fitness you can just begin with a smaller version of what you are attempting. For instance, if you know that you will be walking a lot on vacation, start adding more walking in your life. All of those cliché ideas really work, such as, parking further away or walking instead of driving. The nice thing about getting ready for a vacation is that it can be a great “carrot” for your motivation. We often use a “stick” on ourselves that rarely ends up well.

    What if even getting up from a chair is hard? You need to have stronger legs. You would strengthen your legs and core muscles little by little until you achieve your function. The best way to do this is with chair squats or get ups. Start by doing it on the side of your bed with some pillows to make a higher starting point. As you get stronger, you take pillows away and eventually do it from any chair. A key point is to make sure that your feet have a slight turn out and your knees always stay wide over your little toes to protect your knees. A good trainer or PT can help with this also.

    Stairs are a great functional way to build strength and stamina. If stairs are easy for you, go up whenever you can. As you choose the stairs instead of the escalator you will feel vitality!

    If stairs are hard, practice some stepping up at home on a book or a 2-inch piece of wood. Anything that is lower than a standard stair and holds your weight is good for this. Build endurance first by stepping at a lower height for more repetitions. You will begin to notice regular stairs getting easier and easier. Then one day you will choose the stairs instead of the escalator and feel vitality. Stairs are good vacation training, too.

    More extreme activities follow the same path with different starting points and degrees of difficulty. For instance, if you are getting ready to climb a mountain, you start with a smaller mountain and build up. In this case you would also be building upper body strength.

    Take a moment to think about where in your life you might use a bit more ease and think of a way to improve your function. You can also get some really good ideas online about all of this.

    Cinder Ernst, Medical Exercise Specialist and Life Coach Extraordinaire, helps reluctant exercisers get moving with safe, effective and fun programs. Her book, “Easy Fitness for the Reluctant Exerciser” ( ), is available in paperback and E-book. She specializes in fitness and rehab for plus-size clients, but her stress-free approach is suitable for all. Find out more at