Gym memberships are at an all-time high. High intensity, maximum effort fitness trends (running, CrossFit, Interval Training, marathons, triathlons….) have us pushing ourselves to exhaustion. We see our bodies changing: losing weight, building muscles, and carving out those 6-pack abs. So, why do we find ourselves experiencing muscle strains or tears cleaning out the garage or backaches from washing the car or a stiff neck from spending too long surfing the Internet?
The reason may very well be that your exercise regiment is lacking in FUNCTIONAL fitness. This is the type of training that prepares our bodies for everyday life. It helps us keep our bodies strong enough to perform simple daily activities, i.e. house chores, carrying groceries, getting up from a chair, reaching up in a cupboard, bending over to tie our shoes or cooking a meal. The exercises mimic real-world activities that are performed in real-life positions.
Not everyone aspires to be an athlete. Some of the population simply desires to be strong and healthy and able to carry on their daily activities without fear of injury or falling. The exercises in a functional fitness program are basic, low-impact, easy to follow and best of all can typically be performed at home with no equipment. All you need is your own body. The benefits are huge, including improvement in endurance, range of motion, posture and core strength.
There are three main components to functional fitness:
- AGILITY: Agility enables your body to move in multiple directions, stop and start movements suddenly and respond quickly to sudden changes (such as trying to catch a box dropping off of the counter). Without agility, you are more likely to strain/tear muscles or tendons when forced to react quickly to a situation.
- STRENGTH: A strong body is a confident body. Strength training helps you build and tone muscles, increases metabolism which in turn helps to burn fat, improves bone density and boosts energy levels and mood. You want to be able to pick up a basket of laundry, lift a bag of dog food, push a table aside to clean or pull a child in a wagon.
- BALANCE: In general, balance exercises help us stabilize our bodies, improve our alignment/posture and strengthen our core muscles. As we age, balance becomes an increasing concern, because balance in our bodies diminishes. Proper exercises help us to reduce the risk of falls or injury, as well as, prepare the body to react more instinctively and efficiently if such an event should occur.
Many of the best activities to enhance functional fitness are activities you probably already do. But, it’s never too late to add a few more from the list below to optimize your fitness level:
- Power Walking
- Bike Riding