What Is Functional Fitness
On Monday, you worked your butt off at the gym; you dominated the weights, and sweated through an hour of intense cardio. On Thursday, you lift your 5-year-old niece up in the air and throw your back out.
As you scratch your head in confusion and wonder what happened, consider that you may be ignoring your functional fitness.
You might be in the best shape of your life, but fall short when it comes to doing everyday tasks. You may be a rock star at the gym flossing big pumped muscles or a hard body, but if you cannot haul groceries bags up the stairs with ease, mop your kitchen without back pain, or lift your kid in the air, what’s the point?
Functional fitness is working the body to be fit in order to perform every day activities, such as bending, lifting, climbing, or even walking without causing injury, pain, or discomfort.
Often this type of exercise is viewed as training for life, in that it allows the muscles to be trained to work together to allow you to perform at your best no matter what you do. This includes balancing while lifting, bending to put on your shoes, and lugging groceries from your car to your front door and putting those groceries away on the highest of shelves in your kitchen or pantry.
Functional fitness is a delicate balance of fitness in flexibility, coordination, balance, overall strength, and core strength.
The focus of functional fitness exercises and workout programs is to build a body that is capable of doing real-life activities in real-life positions, instead of lifting a certain goal weight, running for a certain amount of time or building strong biceps or shoulder muscles as is seen in traditional workout routines.
Activities Simulated During Functional Training
• Bending to pick up a child
• Lifting things off the floor
• Picking up a child into the air
• Bending over to cut your toenails
• Putting things away on a high shelf
• Reaching for something high up
• Changing a light bulb in a ceiling light
• Taking groceries into the house
• Work and various work tasks
• Lifting a heavy suitcase
• Positions taken during gardening
• Mowing the lawn
• Raking the leaves
• Sweeping and mopping the floor
Squats are the perfect example of functional training because they train the body to use multiple muscle groups together along with promoting balance and stability skills. Squats mimic multiple every day activities that people participate in, and as opposed to doing an exercise such as the chest press that only targets chest and arms muscles, the squat works various major muscle groups supporting functional movement.
While there is nothing wrong with the traditional free weights, weight machines, and bodyweight exercises, functional training should be incorporated into a regular fitness routine, to enhance your everyday performance and to especially promote better fitness and body agility as you age.
5 Benefits of a Strong Core
If you’re like most people, then you’ve looked at your midsection in the mirror at least once before and dreamed about a glistening six-pack.
However, did you know that there are many important health and life benefits that come from a stronger core beyond simply looking good?
Read on to learn about five not-so-obvious improvements a strong core can bring to help you stay motivated during your next gym visit.
Even though your equilibrium is actually controlled by your inner ear, your balance and stability are significantly influenced by your core strength. This is because your core helps you maintain control of your body during movement.
One way you might notice this is walking on slippery sidewalk during the rain. A strong core helps keeps you from falling or slipping when your feet start to slide. You can also see an improvement during various other exercises and activities, from distance running to yoga to soccer.
It might not seem like it, but your core strength has a huge impact on your breathing by way of your diaphragm. This is the primary muscle responsible for your ability to inhale and exhale, and it is located right in the center of your core.
When you strengthen your core, you strengthen your diaphragm and thus increase your ability to breathe easily. A stronger diaphragm can help you take deeper breaths as well as sustain a faster rate of breathing for a longer period of time. This ensures you intake enough oxygen during physical activity.
Your posture plays a major role in the condition of your body, as poor posture can result in pain or injury when you attempt different actions. Standing up straight while sitting, walking, or moving requires a strong core in order to keep your spine from bending unintentionally. From hunching your back while you sit at your desk to keeping your body straight while you jump, good posture is always important.
If you can stand up straighter, you can see improvements such as being able to eliminate wrist and neck pain while typing to burning more calories during a workout because you are able to better execute each move.
No More Back Pain
Chronic lower back pain can result from a variety of circumstances, and a strong core is capable of relieving pain for most of them. By improving the performance of the muscles in the back and hips, you improve your ability to stand up straight as well as perform tasks that require heavy lifting, crouching or bending over.
In turn, this helps relieve pain that comes from contorting the spine in unnatural ways for extended periods of time, overexerting the back, or sitting the wrong way at work. As your body becomes more capable of movement and exertion during these activities, you become more aware of your positioning and are thus able to make adjustments to keep your body in the right alignment and eliminate pain.
Virtually every sport and physical activity relies on the core in some capacity, which means that improving your core strength can translate into major changes in your performance. For example, a stronger core can help you keep your body straight while swimming and thus allow you to stay on target and increase your speed.
Another benefit of strong core muscles is that you can better utilize your other muscles, such as being able to throw a ball farther. This is because you can better leverage your upper body to create more force behind the throw, while also keeping your body level to make sure the ball flies in the intended direction.
Outdoor Activities That Increase Heart Rate and Get You Moving
Being confined indoors and exercising on a stationary bud endless loop of workout machinery can quickly cause your workout to feel stale. Here are 5 activities that can take your workout into the fresh, outdoor air to mix up your routine, and get your heart pumping for a great cardio workout.
Walking is one of the best and versatile exercises that you can do no matter your fitness level. Research has shown that walking at least 60 minutes each day can help you lose unwanted pounds as well as help you ward off detrimental health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
Taking a brisk walk around your neighborhood, or around town running your errands are great ways to get outside, get your heart pumping, and get fit-and, you’ll enjoy it more than watching the minutes drag by on the treadmill.
Jogging is a great way to condition your cardiovascular system, and exercise your legs and arms at the same time as your heart and lungs. Since you exert more energy to run than walk, this can also ramp up your calorie burning if you’re trying to shed some weight.
You’ll need a good pair of shoes, and if you don’t already jog regularly, work your way up to your goal distance and time. Warm up by walking briskly for a few minutes, and then jog for a couple minutes, walking again when you become fatigued. By alternating walking and running, you’ll increase your endurance until you’re able to job the entire route about your neighborhood or favorite park.
Bicycling is a fantastic workout for your legs and lungs, and will add some fun to your health routine as well. Many cities have bike lanes or special biking trails that you can use to safely discover more about your town and your community while you’re pedaling your way to better cardiovascular health.
When choosing a new bike, or reviving one you have in your garage, it’s important to make sure that the bike is sized properly for you. Riding a bike that is not fitted to your height can put excess strain on your back and legs, and through off your balance as you’re riding. To get the most of your workout, and keep your body aligned and safe during your ride, it’s a good plan to stop by a local bike shop and have them fit you to a bike so you know what to purchase, or can confirm that your old bike will work just fine.
Swimming provides an excellent, full-body workout that is fun and enjoyable. The gentle resistance of the water helps get your heart rate going, but is gentle on your limbs, muscles, and joints. Swimming also helps increase your stamina and conditions your cardiovascular system at the same time.
Many pools offer designated lap swim hours as well as water aerobics classes, so get your bathing suit and goggles and add some variety to your workout routine with sometime in the water.
Hiking provides a great leg workout and also gets your heart pumping by climbing up and down through natural terrain. The fresh air and the beautiful scenery make for an invigorating experience for your body and all your sense.
It’s a great idea to go with some friends, and make sure to bring some water with you so you can stay hydrated in higher altitudes as you climb. If you want to make it more challenging, you can wear a weighted pack for extra resistance while you hike and enjoy the outdoors.
Using these and other outdoor activities for exercises makes working out more fun, and being in the fresh air makes it feel much less like exercise!