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Functional fitness: real-world exercises for a stronger, fitter you!
Exercises that can help you in your everyday life aren’t necessarily based on taking aerobics classes, doing dozens of sit-ups or even running a mile each morning. In fact, getting stronger at doing squats and lunges can help train your body to be better at life. Welcome to functional fitness – real-world exercises that mimic your body’s normal, everyday actions.
We spoke to CBHS Wellness Consultant and Exercise Physiologist, Alia Jaghbir, about the fitness regime that’s quickly becoming the go-to for muscle strengthening and conditioning – for all ages and fitness levels.
“Functional fitness is based on exercises we can all do to enhance our lives and the way we move each day. You’re literally replicating the movements you would do in your everyday life like, reaching up to the cupboard to get a glass. And you’re incorporating several muscle groups while you’re doing it.
You may even have a goal of improving your performance in a specific sport so functional training can help with this too. This kind of training is gaining more traction worldwide and can be a very holistic approach and healthy movement.”
What’s more, you don’t need to be a high-performing athlete or super flexible person to get the best results; greater strength, stability and mobility. Functional fitness is ideal for all age groups and fitness levels helping you move with more ease and less strain, not only on your exercise mat, but in life as well.
“Any type of resistance-based training with a qualified trainer can help you on your functional fitness journey.”
What are the basics of functional fitness?
The aim is to prepare your body for ‘purposeful movement’. In other words, every action has a purpose – it’s not just about hitting 25 push-ups fast.
As Alia explains,
“When you’re engaging in any type of functional fitness movement like a squat or a lunge, it’s about engaging several joints and muscles groups and building on your strength and mobility, slowly and safely. Ultimately the goal is to enhance and build on the functional moves you make throughout your day.”
Exercises with an outcome – what are the benefits of functional training?
Functional fitness is based on strengthening and training your everyday movement patterns – it’s not about bulking up your muscles! This form of training prepares your body and muscles for stronger, more fluid movement.
- Increased flexibility and strength
- Greater balance and speed
- Improved body function and musculoskeletal health
- Reduced risk of falls and long term injury.
Functional fitness exercises can also make a great addition to a physical rehabilitation program. What’s more, if you are consistent with your training, you’ll see results and feel the difference in your body sooner than you think.
No need for any fancy equipment
You can get the most out of functional training just by using your body weight. However, depending on your fitness and strength goals, you may also want to use dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, slam balls or resistance bands.
“The key movement patterns in a functional fitness exercise routine are based on the squat, lunge, hinge, push, pull and carry motions.”
Just like real-world movements, functional fitness exercises are based on movements such as:
- Sit to stand
- Body squats and lunges
- Forward bends
- Hip twists
- Walking backwards
You can also find – and benefit from – functional fitness moves in yoga and Pilates.
This video is a good introduction to functional fitness. Alia takes you through a 30 minute full body workout designed to build your strength and endurance.
Is there a difference between CrossFit and functional fitness programs?
Yes! While some of the movements may mirror those in a CrossFit class, functional fitness is more about injury prevention and training your body to move better.
CrossFit is focused on strength and conditioning with a mix of heavy weights and high-intensity workouts to build a body that’s capable of practically anything and everything. However, functional fitness training, is made up of exercises that replicate the activities we do in our daily lives. For example, squats are a functional exercise that mimic sitting down and standing up from a chair.
“Functional fitness is based on doing real-world exercises that replicate your body’s normal, everyday actions.”
Getting started – at any age or fitness level
Functional fitness activities are an engaging, fun and effective way to maintain healthy function in your body and muscles. And you don’t need to be a high performing athlete or even a naturally flexible person to enjoy the benefits.
Whether you’re 20 or 60, this exercise regime can be tailored to suit your fitness and mobility levels. Of course, it’s always a good idea to consult with a professional trainer and your GP before you begin any form of exercise. A healthcare professional can help you with a customised exercise program that will target the areas in your body that need strengthening and greater flexibility.
If you’re ready to begin your functional fitness journey, you can find a good selection of online videos that will take you through the basic moves. You can also explore your local fitness centre for regular classes lead by exercise professionals. Whatever you choose, you’ll be taking a step in the right direction towards improving your mobility, flexibility and strength.
All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified healthcare professional.
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