What is functional fitness?
The easiest way to describe Functional Fitness would be an all-encompassing way to exercise that will prepare the body for real world events. In simpler terms, training for life. Every day, we as humans are challenged to move our bodies in many different ways. It can be during work, playing with our kids or pets, or even commuting from one place to the next. We are always moving. We want to be able to keep our bodies strong and healthy so that we can do these activities later in our lives without worrying about injury or illness. Functional fitness plays a key role in preparing the body for these real-world events by applying everyday movements in everyday workouts.
The main focus of functional fitness is to improve physical and cardiovascular health, as well as teach better movement through the use of high intensity, endurance, and resistance training. Using a culmination of movements like squats, deadlifts, pushes, pulls, jumps, and throws done with some form of intensity; functional fitness allows the body to take on physical stress in a safe and controlled manner. As well, functional fitness has been shown to boost the immune system, increase longevity, and contribute to the anti-aging process.
Health benefits of functional fitness?
A study done for the European Heart Journal has shown that high intensity training, as well as endurance training can slow down cellular deterioration and thus improve aging. In our body’s cellular structure, we have DNA that is organized into chromosomes, and at the end of each chromosome is a DNA cap called a telomere.1 The telomere protects the ends of the chromosome from deteriorating. Over the course of time, telomeres begin to shorten and can no longer protect the DNA, thus leading to cell death. One of the proteins responsible for the structure of the telomere is an enzyme called telomerase. This enzyme has the ability to counteract the shortening of the telomere, and can even add length to it.1 The study showed that after a six month period of high intensity and endurance training done three times a week, for forty-five minutes a session produced higher telomerase activity, as well as a lengthening of telomeres.2
As we can see, functional fitness is the perfect recipe for developing a healthy body that will last us years. Through the combination of high intensity, endurance, and resistance training we can be stronger (physically AND mentally), more aware, and better individuals.
How can I train functional fitness?
One of the best ways to get into the realm of functional fitness is to join a local gym that provides quality service and knowledgeable coaches. Some of these gyms involve CrossFit, Martial Arts, Climbing, Sport Specific Training, Kettlebell, or even Strongman. If at home, then make sure workouts are varied between high intensity, endurance, and resistance training. There are also many online programs to follow.
High Intensity Workouts
- Smaller time constraint (1-3 Minutes)
- 90-100% Effort
- Can be broken up into intervals
- Movements with a low skill set.
- Burpees, Air Squats, Lunges, Push Ups, Sprints
- Longer time constraint (10+ Minutes)
- 50-80% Effort
- Movements that can be sustained for long periods of time with little to no eccentric loading.
- Running, Rowing, Biking, Swimming, Skipping
- Can be either high intensity or endurance based.
- Use of weights or bands.
- Varied effort level.
- Weighted Pushes, Pulls, Squats.
As you can see not only functional fitness, but exercise in general, can benefit us in more ways than we think. It can improve our physical and mental capacity, and change the way we think and feel. Any type of exercise can be considered “functional,” provided that it is being done with thought, intent, and presence. So if you want to defy the odds of aging then adding fitness into your weekly activities is going to be essential!
“Endurance but not resistance training has anti-aging effects”: https://www.escardio.org/The-ESC/Press-Office/Press-releases/endurance-but-not-resistance-training-has-anti-aging-effects
“Differential effects of endurance, interval, and resistance training on telomerase activity and telomere length in a randomized, controlled study”: https://academic.oup.com/eurheartj/article/40/1/34/5193508