Why You Should Incorporate Functional Fitness into Your Workout Routine
In recent years, the fitness industry has shifted its focus from traditional gym workouts to functional fitness. Functional fitness is defined as a form of training that focuses on movements that are necessary for everyday life. It is important to incorporate functional exercises into your strength training routine because it can help improve your overall strength and mobility, reduce your risk of injury, and improve your quality of life.
Strength training has always been a staple in the fitness world, and for good reason. Strength training helps increase muscle mass, improve bone density, and increase metabolism. However, strength training alone may not be enough to prepare you for the demands of everyday life. Functional fitness aims to bridge that gap by focusing on movements that mimic real-life activities.
What is Functional Fitness?
Functional fitness is a type of exercise that focuses on movements that mimic everyday activities. These movements are designed to improve your strength, endurance, flexibility, and balance in a way that prepares you for the demands of daily life. Functional fitness can be broken down into seven basic movements: squatting, lunging, pushing, pulling, bending, twisting, and walking/running.
Functional fitness workouts typically involve multi-joint movements that use multiple muscle groups at the same time. These movements help improve coordination, balance, and stability while also providing a cardiovascular stimulus. Functional fitness workouts can be done with bodyweight exercises, resistance bands, kettlebells, or other functional equipment.
Benefits of Functional Fitness for Different Age Groups
Functional fitness can benefit people of all ages, from children to older adults. By incorporating functional movements into their daily activities, people of all ages can improve their balance, coordination, and mobility. Functional fitness can also help prevent injuries by strengthening the muscles and joints used in everyday activities. Here are some of the benefits of functional fitness for different age groups:
Youth to Young Adults (8-30): Starting at a young age and through early adulthood, functional fitness can help improve and, through continued use, maintain overall fitness levels and prevent injuries. Additionally, it can help build strength, coordination, and confidence.
Middle-Aged Adults (31-50): As we age, our bodies become less efficient at performing everyday activities and various metabolic processes start to slow down. For middle-aged adults, functional fitness can help maintain strength, balance, and coordination which in turn helps strengthen the muscle and joints used in everyday activities. This can help to keep injuries at bay while maintaining fitness levels with the added benefit of making activities of daily living easier and less strenuous.
Older Adults (50+): Functional fitness is especially important for older adults as it can help improve their overall quality of life. As mentioned earlier, when we age, our bodies become less efficient at performing everyday activities. It’s never too late to start and attaining a basic level of fitness can help improve balance, coordination, and mobility, which can help prevent falls and other injuries. It can also help improve bone density and assist in maintaining muscle mass, which can reduce the risk of osteoporosis and osteopenia.
Downsides of Not Incorporating Functional Fitness
Not incorporating functional fitness into your workout routine can have some drawbacks. Without functional fitness, you may not be prepared for the demands of everyday life. This can lead to an increased risk of injury and decreased quality of life. For example, with a noted decrease in your balance and coordination, you may be more apt to fall and injure yourself. If you don't work on your mobility, you may have trouble performing everyday activities like reaching for objects or getting up from a chair. This will become increasingly more important as we age, so setting a good foundation and building these healthy habits early is paramount.
Examples of Functional Fitness Exercises
Here are a few examples of functional fitness exercises that you can start incorporating into your routine today:
Squats: Squats are a functional movement that mimic the movement of sitting down and standing up. To perform a squat, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and lower your body down as if you were sitting in a chair. Keep your weight on your heels and your chest up. Squats work your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and core. Additional weight can be added using dumbbells, barbells, rubber bands, kettlebells etc.
Lunges: Lunges are another functional movement that mimic walking or climbing stairs. To perform a lunge, step forward with one foot and lower your body down until your thigh is parallel to the ground. Keep your weight on your front heel and your knee behind your toes. Lunges work your glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Try mixing up your lunge directions for an additional challenge.
Push-Ups: Push-ups are a functional movement that mimic pushing objects away from your body. To perform a push-up, start in a plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart. Lower your body down until your chest touches the ground, then push back up. Keep your elbows close to your body and your core tight. Push-ups work your chest, shoulders, triceps, and core. Difficulty can be modified to make it easier by performing your push-up against a wall.
Pull-Ups: Pull-ups are a functional movement that mimic pulling objects towards your body. To perform a pull-up, grip a bar with your hands shoulder-width apart and pull your body up until your chin is above the bar. Keep your elbows close to your body and your core tight. Pull-ups work your back, biceps, and core. An alternative to this exercise is the lat pull down.
Plank: The plank is a functional exercise that helps improve your core strength and stability. To perform a plank, start in a push-up position with your hands shoulder-width apart. Lower your body down until your forearms are on the ground and your elbows are under your shoulders. Hold this position for 30-60 seconds, keeping your core tight and your body in a straight line. Side planks are also a good option that can add some variety to your routine.
Incorporating these exercises into your workout routine can help improve your overall fitness level and prepare you for the demands of everyday life. Functional fitness can be done anywhere, and with little to no equipment, making it a convenient and accessible form of exercise for anyone.
In conclusion, incorporating functional fitness into your workout routine can provide numerous benefits for people of all ages. It can help improve your strength, mobility, coordination, and balance, while also reducing your risk of injury and improving your quality of life. By incorporating functional movements into your workout routine, you can better prepare your body for the demands of daily life, and maintain your overall health and fitness for years to come.