Have you offered your hand to a woman unloading a shopping cart? Have you ever been in the situation in which you offered a helping hand to a woman unloading her groceries from her shopping cart and you did not get the response you had expected? Some take offense to the added support because, in a way, it is actually a stereotype against the aged. Perhaps that particular individual regularly practices functional fitness to ensure she is more than capable of handling her groceries, as well as many other tasks throughout the day.
Functional fitness is by no means a new term. Dr. Per-Olaf Astrand coined the term in 1992 after studying Sport and Health Sciences. He stated, “if animals are built reasonably, they should build and maintain just enough, but not more structures than they need to meet functional requirements.”
Dr. Astrand was a man ahead of the time. Prior to Astrand, any sort of lifting weights or exercise was associated with steroids and muscle tanks. Many are aware of this era, Miami beach was home to a number of jocks with arms the size of two liter bottles and legs the size of trees. Functional fitness is FAR different than the methodologies used by the oversized men of the 90s.
Functional fitness differentiates from the traditional methods of exercise typically known. Although the term was coined in the early 90s, only recently has a dramatic shift has taken hold. Functional fitness does not rely so heavily on aesthetics of exercise, rather the purpose of each exercise. In this instance, the goal is to improve the activities of daily in order to improve quality of living.
Functional fitness refers to purposeful exercise. The movements, and improvements made are in direct relation to movements and activities of everyday life.
Movements in everyday life and their functional exercise counterpart:
These may seem like tasks that do not require any sort of exercise training to maintain but it may just shock you. Let’s point out my father, he has been retired now for about 8 years (30 years behind a desk). He is a man that’s always on the go outside of his career. There is always a task around the house that needs to be done. There have even been times in which my mother has returned from a trip to the local supermarket to find him on the roof ‘repairing shingles’. My father was not in the roofing industry, he has no business being on the roof.
Anyway, I point this out because something as simple as bending to lift a pen, yes a pen, from the floor has the potential to exacerbate an underlying issue. This was a similar case for my father, after many years behind a desk he battled lower back pain, similar to many Americans. I can recall instances in which my father would ‘throw his back out’, as he would say. There was a time in which he sneezed and he was sidelined for days. Another time in which he was lifting a small dog crate, I watched my father walk with pain, and in a slumped position for weeks.
There finally came a time in which I spoke with him about truly getting his health in order. No more cookie cutter exercise where the problem is avoided. Focus on the issue, lower back pain, and ensure that nothing like that ever happens again. The answer, functional fitness. To cut to the chase, my father now happily completes deadlifts, yes deadlifts. He has very little to zero chronic back pain, and continues to find mundane tasks to complete around the house.
More often that not, beginning a functional training program will bring to light individual realities. Two various scenarios often play out…
It is a fitness ideology that is greatly shifting what has been previously known with the applicability to all populations in order to improve quality of life.