March 19, 2004
Pursue functional fitness to ease strain of everyday activities
By Susan Christensen
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—If you’ve been looking for a workout that makes it easier to climb the stairs at work or tote your toddler around the mall, you’re not alone.
The American Council on Exercise reports that the pursuit of “functional fitness” is among the top 10 fitness trends for 2004.
“That means training your body in a way that enhances the ease of doing your daily activities,” explains Peter Schott, a physical therapist and therapy manager at Methodist Rehabilitation Center’s outpatient rehab center in Flowood. “Instead of mindlessly doing bicep curls, you work on exercises that physiologically simulate the movements you do every day.”
Schott said physical and occupational therapists have long used the approach to help people return to work or the playing field after they’ve been injured. But he believes many such injuries could be avoided altogether if people knew how to pursue “functional fitness” on their own.
“If your gym has a certified personal trainer or sports therapist, tell them about your goals and ask for tips on how to achieve them,” he said. “For instance, if you’re determined to quit taking the elevator at work, they can show you exercises such as squats and step-ups that will improve your stair-climbing abilities.”
Schott said you will probably get the most gains from exercises that employ several muscles at the same time, such as walking lunges or arm punches. “This mimics real-life movements. It’s rare that you do an activity that isolates one muscle group.”
Abdominal and lower back muscles are a good area to target first because they are activated whenever someone jumps, kicks, throws, runs, twists or lifts an object.
Schott said most gyms have machines that train these muscles, or you can try traditional exercises, such as abdominal crunches.
“Be sure you get someone to show you the correct form because proper posture and positioning are essential when you’re working on these areas,” he said. “If you do these exercises correctly and consistently, it can go a long way toward preventing injury and increasing your endurance for every day activities such as gardening and house cleaning.”