Functional Fitness

Who is fitness for? The media depicts fitness as being for the young and beautiful, as if you need to already be fit and well muscled before you can exercise. This view many seem to have about exercise may account for why the American College of Sports Medicine estimates that about 80% of the population is sedentary or inactive. But are there really that many people who do absolutely nothing related to physical activity? The activities that are used to judge the percentage of inactive people seem to be the planned, structured activity we know as intentional exercise. But is traditional exercise activity the only acceptable way to improve health and fitness?

Years ago there were no intentional exercise programs. Physical activity was a natural part of life and practically everyone participated in enough movement to condition the cardiovascular system and muscles. Our modern labor saving devices and the television set have robbed many people of movement time, but it is quite possible that many people who are included in the inactive population really do participate in many of life’s activities that require physical movement. They just are not doing them at a fitness facility or as an “exercise routine.

Nevertheless, there are a lot of people suffering from chronic diseases that are related to a sedentary lifestyle. Many more are aware of the possible risks and know that they need to get more activity than they are currently doing. Most people would like to enjoy moving their bodies in recreation or task related pursuits without experiencing discomfort. If that were possible, maybe it would be possible for exercise to be fun for individuals who find no enjoyment in moving their bodies.

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.

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The term functional fitness is applied to simple exercise plan that are 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 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 includes 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.

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 compliment the activities that a person already is doing in life, and does not require joining a workout facility.

Some of the needs a functional fitness program would address are:

  • Neutralize repetitive stresses that may cause long-term injury. The joints of the shoulders and knees most often injured. Functional movements strengthen these weakness’ and improve joint stability.
  • Aid in improvement of poor daily posture with specific exercises to correct posture for sitting, standing, and bending.

Functional exercise does not stop with training individual muscles. It also trains the muscles to work together in an orchestrated way to produce comfortable movement.

Other considerations in functional fitness are individual priorities and time management. Most people shun exercise because of the amount of time they think it takes. 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 done with a minimum of labor-saving devices.

It is easy to see that functional fitness is a balanced strategy based on individual lifestyle and basic health maintenance. Daily movement (exercise) is important. View it as prevention and compare it to your visits to the dentist and doctor for regular checkups.

Wellness, health and fitness are related. They are not a place, such as a gym. They are a state of mind and body regardless of where the individual pursues it. I do believe that many of those who are termed as inactive by exercise authorities are actually people with activities, who are very interested in wellness. However, in terms of fitness skills, they are beginners. Many people say they want to exercise, but they do not know how to begin or where to start. A functional fitness plan may be the answer.

Most beginners appreciate a good teacher. They want someone who understands their position and needs as a beginner. A good teacher will understand the learning process that all beginners go through. Good teachers will emphasize that changing old habits for the sake of better health is reachable. Positive changes are possible with desire, attitude and education. A functional fitness program is one of the easiest to learn and add to your lifestyle.

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