Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Functional Fitness

When the weather gets bad, I pull out my DVD collection so I can continue getting exercise, even on bad days.  I pulled out one and on it the instructor mentioned that we were doing "Functional Fitness", a term I'd never heard of.  

Functional fitness is defined as exercises to help train your muscles so you can do normal activities safely.  When exercising, your muscles are trained to work together by recreating movements you might do in your daily live at home, in sports, or during sports.

Exercises performed during functional fitness prepare a person for real life so if you pick up a 50 pound child, you won't pull a muscle.  Furthermore, it combines balance with strength, range of motion, and mobility so you can twist and turn without injury.  To aid this, functional fitness focuses on attaining core stability to help with posture and balance. An example of one exercise one can do for functional fitness are squats because they train lower body muscles for sitting in or getting up out of chairs, or squat down to pick up something on the ground.  

The nice thing about functional fitness is that it can be done at home or in the gym.  It might involve high intensity training, use dumbbells or resistance bands, or rely on body weight such as in sit-ups, pushups, or planks.  Furthermore, functional exercises tend to use multiple joints and a wide variety of muscles.  When done properly, these exercises can help reduced any chance of injury, improve your ability to carry out everyday activities, and make life easier.

It is strongly recommended that older people look at incorporating functional fitness into their daily routine so as to help them improve balance, muscle strength, and improve movement so as they age, they decrease their risk of falling and injuring themselves.

Tai Chi and yoga offer great movements for functional fitness such as ones that focus on balance, resistance, and flexibility.  It is also possible to take regular movements such as lunges and instead of always lunging forward, perform the lunge movements in multiple directions.  

If you are just starting out, one should ease into functional training just as one would ease into any new form of exercise.  In addition, at the beginning one should rely on exercises that use one's body weight to provide resistance rather than using extra resistance.  It is not the same as working one muscle group out at a time using weights or machines.  It is combining different muscle groups to perform together because in nature, our muscles work together, not separately.  

Functional fitness is not only for the elderly.  It is for everyone so that as we age, we retain the ability to pick things off the ground, sit down, stand up, reach for things on the top shelf, twist and turn, so we don't hurt ourselves.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

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