Functional Fitness: A Growing Exercise Trend

Moving Ahead

Functional fitness was one of the top 10 fitness trends in 2015, and may have Americans rethinking the scope of exercise, according to the American College of Sports MedicineOff Site Icon (ACSM).

Functional fitness, which applies strength training to a person’s real world, is among one of these growing trends in fitness. Dusty Rhodes, DO, of Premier Orthopedics, said the concept of functional fitness has been around for decades, however, not until just recently has it gained a more structured application.

“This is a new concept in the fact that people are now making it a priority in their life,” Dr. Rhodes said. “When a person now enters a gym or engages a personal trainer to get in shape, they are going to be asked about their personal life – the activities they are involved in, the sports they play, and perhaps what they do for a living.”

A Growing Trend

People who head to the gym will be doing more than running on the treadmill to lose weight or lifting a few pounds to build muscle, according to ACSM. Individuals will want exercises that improve their quality of life and ease daily living, according to ACSM’s annual review of fitness trends for 2015.

Functional fitness incorporates the details of a person’s life in the development of a personalized exercise routine. The end goal of any functional fitness routine is to strengthen parts of a person’s body that will help them do certain activities throughout the day.

An example would be a person who gets a job as a limousine driver.  The job may seem fairly straightforward and simple: a person sits in a seat and turns the steering wheel.

“But then you might discover that a limo driver does much more,” Dr. Rhodes said. “He may have to load and unload baggage, move equipment, and help physically-challenged individuals in and out of the vehicle. The limo driver may actually have to lift 50 to 60 pounds of bags in and out of the trunk on a repeated basis.”

An exercise regime that incorporates functional fitness will be designed with all this in mind. This individual may engage in a fitness routine that helps build their core muscles or strengthen their arms and legs all with the purpose of making their daily work easier, said Dr. Rhodes, who practices with Premier Physician Network.

“The benefit of functional fitness is that it helps you do your job or live your life in a better, safer way,” he said. “One of the reasons people often get injured is that they try to do something they’re not conditioned or prepared to do. We see this in what we call weekend warriors – a guy who hasn’t run for years and decides to take the challenge of running a 10k without much preparation. Suddenly, he finds his back and knees hurt and he’s out of breath. A proper functional fitness routine would have prepared him for that.”

Implementing Functional Fitness

According to Dr. Rhodes, functional fitness has always existed in organized sports. Coaches and sports trainers have always known the value of functional fitness and have always applied it with their players. They know a quarterback will need to work different muscle groups than a lineman. However, today that same concept is applied to anyone regardless of the daily tasks.

“Functional fitness is broader than training for a specific activity,” Dr. Rhodes said. “A homemaker, for instance, may engage in a variety of activities such as lifting laundry and vacuuming.”

Functional fitness should be considered a priority for older adults, he added. Individuals lose strength, elasticity and endurance as they age. One of the best ways to reduce the risk of this loss is to engage in exercises. Functional fitness helps older adults do daily tasks such as bending, lifting and reaching without becoming injured.

Those who want to implement functional fitness need to keep several things in mind. First, be evaluated by a primary care physician. This will not only ensure an individual is healthy enough to begin a fitness routine, but could also point out areas of health that need focus. Second, seek professional help to form a functional fitness routine. This can be a personal trainer or fitness expert at a local gym. 

“Having a personal fitness trainer there coaching you and giving you encouragement allows you to accomplish more,” Dr. Rhodes said. 

For more information on functional fitness or to find a Premier Health Specialists physician near you, visit https://www.premierphysiciannet.com/ to find a physician. Answers to common sports medicine questions can also be found on the Premier Physicians Network website. 

Dr. Rhodes discusses functional fitness. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

What is functional fitness?

Functional fitness is the application of fitness, strength training and conditioning, applied to the real world. It really is common sense. When we have an individual that has an interest in fitness, and they go to the gym to see a personal fitness trainer, if you turn the clock back 30-40 years ago, there would be no conversation about what do you want to accomplish or what do you do. There were formulas that people would come to the gym and they would do a certain number of certain exercises, hopefully with improving their strength and overall fitness with no idea of exactly where they were going. I guess an analogy would be you hop in your car and you take a drive, but you’re not really sure where you’re going.