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Functional Fitness: Training for Everyday Life

October 17, 2017

By Mary Staackmann, Director of Lifelong Learning

Functional training exercise is the latest buzzword in fitness, and for good reason. Functional training focuses on enhancing your ability to do real-life activities, not just lifting a certain amount of weight in an idealized posture on a gym machine. Functional fitness exercises are designed to train and develop your muscles to make it easier and safer to perform everyday activities, such as carrying groceries, gardening, going up or down stairs, or playing a game with your grandkids.

In everyday activities, we use our body as a whole, not in isolated muscle groups. Functional fitness exercises train your muscles to work together and prepare them for daily tasks by simulating common movements you might do at home, at work, or in sports. A functional exercise should be a multi-joint exercise and, ideally, it should work both the upper and lower body. While using various muscles in the upper and lower body at the same time, functional fitness exercises also emphasize core stability.For example, a squat is a functional exercise because it trains the muscles used when you rise up and down from a chair or pick up low objects. By training your muscles to work the way they do in everyday tasks, you prepare your body to perform well in a variety of common situations. It’s all about creating synergy within our body. 

The entire team of fitness specialists at North Shore Senior Center’s Fitness Center focuses on functional fitness in classes, personal training, and individualized workouts. Katie Morgan, team manager, states that functional fitness is an integrated workout that combines compound movements, such as working multiple muscles in one action, with movements that mimic daily activities. These movements include things like getting up from a chair, getting up off the floor, reaching over the head or behind the head, and bending and lifting. The goal for functional fitness training is to help people maintain as much independence as possible.

Another great benefit of functional fitness training is that it helps to prevent injuries. Training the muscles to work synergistically helps to maintain balance throughout the body so you don’t develop asymmetry. Muscular asymmetry creates compensation movement patterns which in turn lead to improper movement patterns and injuries.

North Shore Senior Center offers a wide variety of functional fitness opportunities in classes, personal training, and personalized fitness plans developed for you by our fitness specialists. For more information visit www.nssc.org or call the Fitness Center at 847.784.6003.