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Is it getting harder to get out of the car?

By Associate Professor Helen Brown, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University

Why we need to focus on basic, functional movement

I often catch myself letting out a little ‘groan’ as I get up from sitting or grabbing for the handrail as I climb stairs – as we age, this is normal. However, we can do a lot to make sure we don’t let this become limiting to our lives.

What is functional movement?

‘Functional movements’, such as pushing, pulling, twisting, and walking are movements needed for us to ‘function’ (move effectively and efficiently) in our daily life. For example, we might use them when bending down to pick up something from the floor, walking up a flight of stairs, reaching up for an object, twisting around to see something behind us. Things that are often natural to a human being. They require a basic level of balance, coordination and stability and often use major muscle groups1.

As we age, these basic functional movements often become limited, due to things such as poor flexibility and posture, weaker muscles, prior injuries, and development over time of poor movement habits. But not all is lost!!  We can avoid these and lower our risk of injury, by moving more2. Evidence has shown that being physically active reduces the risk of fall-related injuries by 32-40%3.

How do I improve my functional movement?

Throughout your day, try to think of opportunities to repeat these basic movements. For example:

  • When you are watching TV, sit on the floor and get up a few times to standing – with practice, you will see big changes!
  • When walking, focus on being centred and stable – focus on a spot ahead and where your feet move…
  • Try and walk up stairs without holding onto the handrail tightly…
  • Stand up straight! Work out a ‘cue’ to think about whether you are standing tall at any time (I use the colour red as my cue 😊)

Get Active Victoria also has free workouts designed to improve or maintain functional movement. To access the workouts, log in to your Get Active Victoria account or join up.


Any movement (that is, being physically active) for just 30 minutes a day can really work to help functional movement, reduce anxiety, help us focus more and can lead to a greater sense of optimism about life.

You don’t need to do 30 minutes in one session, in fact it is recommended that you move regularly throughout the day and break up your sitting time3. Try and notice when you have been sitting for over 30 minutes, then break this up with a short walk or some simple exercises – some people use a clock or watch timer to remind them to move!!

Let’s move into older age being able to keep up with our friends and family and enjoying being active!!


  1. Cook, G.; Burton, L.; Hoogenboom, B.J.; Voight, M. Functional movement screening: The use of fundamental movements as an assessment of function—Part 1. Int. J. Sports Phys. Ther. 2014, 9, 396–409
  2.  Chen J, Zhang C, Chen S, Zhao Y. Effects of functional correction training on injury risk of athletes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PeerJ. 2021 Mar 25; 9:e11089. doi: 10.7717/peerj.11089.
  3. Dipietro L, Campbell WW, Buchner DM, Erickson KI, Powell KE, Bloodgood B, Hughes T, Day KR, Piercy KL, Vaux-Bjerke A,Olson RD; 2018 PHYSICAL ACTIVITY GUIDELINES ADVISORY COMMITTEE*. Physical Activity, Injurious Falls, and Physical Function in Aging: An Umbrella Review. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2019 Jun;51(6):1303-1313.

Last updated: August 23, 2023 at: 4:52 pm