Functional Fitness? What is it and why is it important?
There are a lot of reasons why we are told to start to add exercise to our lives. Whatever the reason, the biggest one in my view, is to improve quality of life.
People who are physically active age well, sleep well, eat better, move better and think positively; more so than those who are not physically active. Functional fitness is a term coined to reference the simple fact that we should be training for life. Training to improve our everyday quality of life.
Every day we are required to do repetitive movements. This may be work related or it could be things like bending over to pick something up, walking, putting something up on a high shelf, and climbing stairs. These simple movements we often take for granted until they are not so simple anymore.
Functional fitness puts the focus on day-to-day mobility and makes us aware of movement patterns that greatly affect our quality of life and how we can strengthen our bodies to keep up with the tasks we ask of it.
There are seven Basic Movement Patterns as pictured here. When we look at incorporating a strength program into our lifestyle, functional training has us performing movements that mimic these seven patterns and correct the movement patterns we may already be doing based on habit.
This is where gait comes in, how we walk and carry ourselves has a huge impact on how our muscles operate over time. The long-term effects of this can cause us joint pain, muscle imbalance and poor flexibility and range of motion loss. Functional fitness strives to help us correct poor posture and walking habits, fix muscle imbalance and inflexibility due to repetitive movements over time.
As we age, the importance of maintaining mobility increases. It is important to be mindful of repetitive movements, how they effect our bodies and how we can adapt our exercise programs to compensate.
If you are unsure of where to start, my advice is consult a professional. There are physiotherapists and personal trainers that specialize in Functional Movement Patterns. An assessment of posture, gait and flexibility can greatly improve your quality of life.
These assessments do not cost a lot, on par with a dinner out or included in a membership at a fitness facility and you receive so much more than just one good meal. Contact your local clinic or fitness center to find out more. The rewards far outweigh the costs.
Nicole Cournoyer is the general manager of Anytime Fitness in Chemainus.