The term ‘functional fitness’ has become quite popular this year, as more and more people who don’t identify as being ‘into fitness’ recognise the need to enhance and maintain their bodies so that they are able to do the things they want to do in everyday life. Yet recently I have had a few people ask me what it is all about, and what might make it different from, say, their usual classes or fitness routines?
Functional fitness is a name given to exercises that can help strengthen and prepare the body so as to make performing everyday tasks easier, at the same time as reducing the risk of injury. So this means keeping the body in shape so it can do anything from moving boxes, carrying shopping up several flights of stairs, cleaning the car, weeding the garden or even playing a game of volleyball.
The exercises used are generally multi-joint, multi muscle (compound) exercises, with some single joint exercises (isometric), that mimic the types of movements you might do during your day, such as lifting from the ground up over your head, squatting down, or lunging in different directions. These exercises are usually practiced (but not always) with equipment such as dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands and exercise balls.
To give you an example, someone might use exercises such as weighted step ups, weighted lunges and bicep curls, because these will help develop the strength and agility required with carrying shopping, climbing stairs and lifting things up from the ground.
The truth is there may be very little difference between what is considered ‘functional fitness’ and the usual exercise routines you follow. In fact many of the exercises I promote are considered functional fitness exercises. The idea of a functional fitness class is to encourage people who might not normally be very active, to strengthen their bodies and keep them mobile so that they can do all the things they want to be able to do with ease.
Functional fitness exercises will help build and maintain strength, agility and mobility. So for this reason they are fantastic for older people who might wish to improve on balance, muscle strength, agility and to reduce their risk of falls. That being said, these exercises are fantastic for anyone for these very same reasons. So don’t shy away from the idea of a functional fitness class, because it will help you improve your strength, balance and agility!