Perhaps you diligently spend 45 minutes working out on an elliptical several times per week, yet you still feel winded when you have to walk down the block holding a toddler. Or no matter how many biceps curls you do, you still struggle to lift your luggage into the overhead bin on an airplane. There is often a disconnect between the exercises you do in the gym and your ability to perform everyday, real-life activities. A hot trend in wellness called “functional fitness” aims to close the gap between your gym activities and life activities.
What Is Functional Fitness?
Like its name suggests, functional fitness is a movement to train your body to do the things it actually needs to do in your everyday life. Typical gym activities, such as using cardio machines or performing single-muscle weight training exercises, can boost muscle tone and improve your overall cardiovascular health. However, these traditional exercises do not always allow your body to become more effective at your day-to-day activities. Climbing stairs, carrying a bag of pet food from the store to your car, or rearranging your furniture are strenuous everyday activities that may prove challenging, therefore, we need to train our bodies to be able to do these activities without being winded or pulling a muscle.
At the core of functional fitness is a recognition that exercises should target multiple muscle groups. Rather than using machines or exercises to focus on individual muscles, functional fitness asks that you perform complex movements that target groups of muscles. This doesn’t always mean that you need to learn a whole new set of moves. For example, squats are an excellent functional exercise that engage your hamstrings, quads, glutes, and back. They also help to ensure you can reach down to grab something heavy on the floor or stand up easily from a chair. No matter your age, functional fitness can improve your overall mobility and daily functioning.
What Does a Functional Fitness Workout Look Like?
Functional fitness experts often draw upon techniques from yoga, Pilates, physical therapy, dance, and traditional strength training exercises. This type of fitness also focuses on more than just strength or aerobic exercise. You’ll learn to think of fitness more holistically, comprising strength, endurance, balance, flexibility, speed, and power. Developing all of these traits will help you become more powerful and active in your everyday life.
Common functional fitness routines might include kettlebell workouts, balance exercises on a stability ball, varieties of lunges and squats, and exercises using blocks or steps. Performing just a few exercises can give you a full-body workout.