Functional fitness is a type of work out that concentrates specifically on training your body to cope with real-life situations using real-life body mechanics. This revolutionary technique takes fitness to a whole new level by combining multiple muscle groups and joint movements to work together rather than isolating them to function separately.
Working out on the machines is terrific; however, the machines don’t prepare you for everyday life. A patient, Laura came to me after a back injury and said, “I don’t understand, I went to the gym 3 times a week and felt much stronger, yet when I went on my trip and had to carry my suitcase by myself, I hurt my back. How could that be? That’s because exercising on a machine and performing functional exercise is quite different. Here’s why…
EXAMPLE OF FUNCTIONAL FITNESS EXERCISE:
Tricep extensions performed with dumbbells on a bench is a functional fitness exercise. A seated tricep extension performed on a machine is not. Exercises performed on either a bench or without the use of machines integrates muscles of the back, shoulders, arms, and legs to stabilize your body making the exercise dynamic, meaning your body is in motion. When comparing this dynamic exercise to an occupational therapist bending over to transfer a patient, or a person putting away groceries, they are similar because both functional activities require the person to use a variety of muscles.
However, if you do a seated tricep extension on a machine that isolates the tricep muscle, guess what is doing the work? The machine does most of the work and that movement doesn’t mimic real-life activities. Because in real life, when you’re carrying suitcases, bending over to retrieve something, reaching into your closet, you don’t just use one muscle group to perform functional activities.
That’s why you can train at the gym for months and even years on the machine and one day you go to put groceries in the car and ouch – you strained your back!
Machine-based exercises also limit your range of motion and therefore don’t allow your body full range of movement that is required of you when doing day to day activities.
In this tough economy there is a multitude of reasons for you to incorporate functional fitness into your exercise routine:
- No expensive equipment.
- Decrease back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain
- Decrease risk of injury o Enhance joint mobility
- Keeps you doing all the things you love and need to do
- Can be done by virtually anyone, regardless of fitness level
Functional fitness is all about teaching your body to handle real-life activities. It is a way of exercising that helps your body be strong in those areas that the body needs to be strong in your everyday life. This type of fitness can benefit anyone but can benefit seniors perhaps more than others.
The Idea Of Functional Fitness For Seniors
Functional fitness involves putting your body through the paces that are necessary for everyday life. As a senior, you can lift weights or use a weight lifting machine to strengthen certain muscles of your body to the exclusion of others and may find that you are strengthening certain muscles, which leaves a deficiency in others.
Without functional fitness, you can strengthen your arms in a biceps machine but still throw out your neck when reaching for something out of your reach or throw out your back while lifting your grandchild.
Seniors especially make the mistake of exercising their arms or legs in ways that may strengthen those muscles but avoid exercising their back, for example. This can lead to back trouble that could have been avoided if you had recognized that your arms and legs are intricately connected to your back and are useless without a strong core.
As a senior, you need to use all your muscles and joints in concert with one another and not just isolating out certain muscles to the exclusion of others.
Helping Your Muscles Work Together
Many seniors make the mistake of using weight machines or free weights while at the gym. They are isolating out certain muscle groups for strengthening, strengthening some muscles more than others. They may believe that to have a good biceps bulge is a sign of good health when their triceps muscles are not exercised at all. This means that the muscles cannot work together to do the everyday lifting and stretching that needs to be done as part of your regular day.
Everyday movement is not idealized. You don’t lift or move things by isolating out your muscle groups and in fact, it takes a strong back, strong legs, and strong-arm muscles to move a box or carry groceries. If you isolate out a muscle group to the exclusion of all others, you can set yourself up for injury to those muscles you have neglected.
How To Make Functional Exercise Work For You
Functional exercise is all about integration of muscle parts. It is about showing the muscles how to work together to accomplish a task rather than isolating muscle groups that may be exercised out of proportion to the rest of your muscles.
If you like rowing machines, for example, think about the posture you are in when you do that exercise. Your back is stiff and your arms are bent repeatedly with your legs doing very little. This strengthens some muscles and not others.
A better activity is to use a free weight standing up. First, you bend over and strengthen your back in picking up the weight. Then you strengthen your legs by holding the weight with your entire body. Finally, put the weight in various motions around your body so that your latissimus dorsi muscles are activated, along with your biceps and triceps muscles. Even the small muscles of your hands are strengthened by holding the weight.
All your muscles are working in concert by that simple exercise. If you repeat it on the other side of your body, the muscles of your back, sides, legs, and arms are exercised for the other side of your body and you haven’t missed any muscles in the process.
This type of exercise better mimics the regular activities you do every day and you will have fewer injuries because your muscles have learned to work in concert.
Balance And Control
Functional exercise is all about using your body to balance yourself while having control over your muscles. For seniors, it may mean skipping lifting weights completely and instead of working on things like squats and lunges that use all your muscles and help your balance. You don’t need bulging biceps to have good functional use of your body.
Can you stand on one foot for any amount of time without falling?
If you have questions about functional exercise, talk to a trainer about those exercises that will best mimic those things you are doing in everyday life. It is a different way to exercise that will keep you balanced, strong, and free of injury.
The foods we eat can affect our overall health. A diet rich in harmful elements like saturated fats and cholesterol is a sure way to hypertension and other diseases. On the other hand, the right choice of foods can lessen your risk of acquiring such diseases.
There is a particular eating plan that has been proven to lower hypertension or high blood pressure. This diet is called the DASH or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.
What is the DASH diet?
The DASH diet is a result of clinical studies conducted by scientists of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). The researchers found out that a diet high in potassium, magnesium, calcium, protein, and fiber, and low in fat and cholesterol can drastically reduce high blood pressure.
The study showed that a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy products had a big effect in reducing hypertension. It also showed that the DASH diet produces fast results, sometimes in as little as two weeks after starting the diet.
The DASH diet also emphasizes three important nutrients: magnesium, calcium, and potassium. These minerals are thought to help reduce high blood pressure. A normal 2,000-calorie diet contains 500 milligrams of magnesium, 4.7 grams of potassium and 1.2 grams of calcium.
Doing the DASH Diet
Following the DASH diet is very easy and takes little time in the choice and preparation of meals. Foods rich in fats and cholesterol are avoided. The dieter is advised to eat as many vegetables, fruits, and cereals as possible.
Since the foods you eat in a DASH diet are high in fiber content, it is recommended that you slowly increase your consumption of fiber-rich food to avoid diarrhea and other digestive problems. You can gradually increase your fiber intake by eating an additional serving of fruits and vegetables in every meal.
Grains are also good sources of fiber, as well as the B-complex vitamins and minerals. Whole grains, whole wheat pieces of bread, bran, wheat germ, and low-fat breakfast cereals are some of the grain products you can eat to increase your fiber consumption.
You can choose the food you eat by looking at the product labels of processed and packaged foods. Look for foods that are low in fat, saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol. Meats, chocolates, chips and fast foods are the main sources of fat and cholesterol, so you should reduce your consumption of these foods.
If you decide to eat meat, limit your consumption to only six ounces a day, which is similar in size to a deck of cards. You can also eat more vegetables, cereals, pasta, and beans in your meat dishes. Low-fat milk or skim milk is also a great source of protein without excess fat and cholesterol.
For snacks, you can try canned or dried fruits, as well as fresh ones. There are also healthy snack options for those on the DASH diet such as graham crackers, unsalted nuts, and low-fat yogurt.
It’s Easy to DASH
The DASH diet is popular among many health buffs because it doesn’t require any special meals and recipes. There are no special preparations and calorie-counting to be considered as long as consume more fruits and vegetables and reduce your intake of fat- and cholesterol-rich foods. The DASH diet is a healthy eating plan that focuses more on the three important minerals that are believed to have a beneficial effect on high blood pressure.
The DASH diet is great for people who prefer convenience and ease in their eating plans. With scientific evidence to back it up, the DASH diet offers a proven and tested diet system for people looking for good health.
Ever wondered why sometimes even the people who seem extremely healthy and physically fit backslide at performing an everyday task as small as lifting a toddler? The reason behind such anomalies is a lack of functional fitness.
Functional training deals with exercises and movements that help individuals cope with their daily life routines. Simply put, functional fitness exercises help you to perform some daily chores such as carrying groceries or walking up the staircase to the best of your ability without incurring an injury.
As mentioned above, physical fitness and functional fitness cannot be used synonymously. Physical fitness does increase the chances of fitness but in no way guarantees it. This is why we sometimes see very well trained athletes succumbing to minor injuries after performing some day-to-day task.
The cross-co-ordination of the various joint and muscles in our daily routine requires us to undergo proper training in order to ensure that we are up to par in our everyday lives.
The emphasis of functional training is to develop the core muscles in order to help you optimize your daily productivity. These include the abdominal and lower back muscles. Whether you are a housewife or a busy professional with a sedentary lifestyle, some basic fitness exercises are all you need to make the most out of your day.
Where conventional weight training is about isolating the different muscles, functional training, on the other hand, is about the integration of various muscles to ensure their synchronization while performing a task that involves cross-muscular co-ordination.
Since our everyday routine involves the use of various joints and muscles, training exercises focus on improving multi-joint co-ordination. Keeping this in view, a functional fitness exercise might involve the elbows, spine, and shoulders altogether instead of just focusing on one joint or muscle.
When one embarks on the quest of fitness, he is simply expected to stand on his own feet in order to develop the capacity and control to carry his own body weight adequately. The subsequent stage involves moving on to some conventional weight training techniques.
Therefore, initial training exercises involve the one-legged squat followed by balancing oneself on tiptoes. Once mastery in these basic exercises is achieved, only then can a person move on to advanced exercises.
Remember, if you want to optimize your day’s productivity and stay fit, start your functional training right away! It will provide you long-term benefits that very few other methods offer.
No, we are not talking about some famous Hollywood sisters. The DASH diet or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension is a physician recommended, researched and used diet to help lower blood pressure in two weeks.
Today, one out of four Americans (approximately 73 million people) exhibit high blood pressure or hypertension. Blood pressure is the pressure within the artery walls. Hypertension can be defined as a consistent blood pressure elevation. High blood pressure causes the heart to work harder and is the leading cause of heart attack and stroke. Diminishing sodium intake and eating healthy can help you reduce your chances of acquiring hypertension. This is the premise of the DASH diet.
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute conducted two studies about this diet. Their findings showed that blood pressure was reduced with a diet low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and total fat and high in fruits and vegetables, fat-free milk products, whole grains, fish, poultry and nuts.
As you can see, more food products are allowed in this diet compared to other commercial diets available. They also recommend diminished, not eliminated, amounts of lean red meat, sweets, added sugars, and sugar-containing beverages. Foodies will not have a hard time adjusting to this diet since it does not completely eliminate common foods in the American pantry.
In the DASH Diet plan, there are recipes and diet plans suggested for a 2,300 mg and 1,500 mg sodium consumption. About 2,300 mg of sodium is recommended by both the National High Blood Pressure Education Program and the United States Dietary Guidelines. And unlike most short term diet plans, the DASH diet also offers tips on how to stay focused on the diet. Think long term.
Although weight loss is not a priority, it is a welcomed consequence since the DASH diet is based on a 2000 calorie per day limit. Some tips on how to further reduce sodium in your diet include:
Read food labels.
- You will be surprised how much sodium can be found in low fat or processed foods.
- No extra salt, please. It is typical for us to add a “dash” of salt when boiling pasta or rice.
- Discover other spices or herbs to replace salt in your usual recipes.
As a tip, a teaspoon of table salt contains 2,300 mg of sodium.
It is also best to do this change gradually, since you may experience some detoxification reactions like loss of appetite that may stop you from going through with this diet strategy. Adding some physical exercise and getting appropriate medical supervision is also beneficial.
In conclusion, there are a lot of nutritious but appetizing foods available in the market today. The DASH diet allows a lot of leg room, and its long term benefit is a longer, healthy life. And so, why not try a little DASH in your diet today?
The true goal of fitness is to improve the health of individuals and the community. The fitness industry is just beginning to play a credible, integral role in health-care reform, including the way it serves the sedentary and/or aging population.
What is Functional Fitness?
The term functional fitness is applied to a simple exercise plan that is designed to improve health, increase the ability to perform the activities of daily living, enhance the quality of life and prolong physical independence.
Functional fitness is everyday training for health, good posture and muscle balance. The purpose of functional fitness is to train muscles to perform their specific functions in daily activities at peak performance. A functional fitness plan includes cardiovascular and strength training to maintain a healthy body. A well designed functional fitness plan can complement the activities that a person already is doing in life, and does not require joining a workout facility.
Functional fitness helps people reach goals such as reduced blood pressure, increased range of body motion, and improved self-esteem. For sedentary individuals, achievable benefits from a functional fitness program include the ability to get up from a sofa, to carry suitcases on vacation, to climb stairs, and to reduce the pain experienced from life’s movements.
Most people shun exercise because of the amount of time they think it takes. You know it doesn’t take more than 10 minutes per day to live a healthy lifestyle.
Functional fitness programs do not waste time on exercises that are not needed. Besides some specific exercises performed to improve the specific needs, most of the exercise in a functional fitness program is moderate intensity physical activity accumulated during the day, such as walking instead of driving, physical activity instead of TV, and household tasks are done with a minimum of labor-saving devices.
A Simple Functional Fitness Routine
Let me give you a simple training routine. Everyone these days have stationary bikes. Use them in my method.
- Fast paced cycling for 1 minute
- Rest for 10 seconds
- Fast paced cycling and so on.
Do this for at least 10 rounds of cycling. You’ll lose all your extra flab in this 12 minutes a day workout. This will build your cardiovascular, help you lose weight, be more active and energetic in day to day life. All you need is 12 minutes of your busy time.