Sunday, June 8, 2008

Functional Fitness

All this while, through our columns, we have focused on all aspects of fitness, be it strength, stamina, suppleness, or nutrition.
But the question is – which one is the most important?

Let us see an example. Mr.“ Huge Chest-Back-Biceps-Triceps ” is being chased by a dog. Now, although the dog may look like a speck of dust in front of him, in reality, he may not be able to run for his life. Focusing on just pumping iron will not develop his stamina. The principle of Specificity can be a double-edged sword, and hence has to be used effectively.

Moral of the story is that, fitness must be defined as a perfect blend of strength, stamina, and flexibility, which focuses on making the daily activities of life seem effortless. This is especially so in case of the elder population, where in the need is – functional fitness i.e. being able to carry out day to day activities easily & independently.
Functional Fitness is a revolutionary approach, which focuses on optimal development of strength, stamina, flexibility, based on the individual lifestyle.

The key to functional exercise is Integration. It's about teaching all the muscles to work together rather than isolating them to work independently."

The basic aim being, making the Activities of Daily living easier, and reduce the risk of injury. Due to its individualized approach, it will be different for people even within the same age group!
Key elements of Functional Training:
Strengthen the Core :
The core (Abdominal & lower back region) forms the foundation that supports proper body movement& stabilizes the spine.
Most strengthening exercises use one’s own body weight, like in Pilate’s.
Weight-bearing exercises require balance of muscle strength & endurance about each joint.

Latest trends include Stability balls, Core-boards, Wobble-boards, BOSUs, which provide an unstable surface.
A simple idea is to do regular gym exercises, balancing the body on one leg, like one-legged free squats. Or just try balancing body on one leg while standing and then switch sides.
Multi-Directional movements:
Most traditional exercise machines work muscles in one plane only. Real life takes place in three planes.
Use conditioning techniques that account the ways you actually move in respect to your daily activities.
Multi-joint movements:
Conditioning must include multi-joint exercises using both upper and lower body together, while maintaining a proper spine alignment.
Neuro-Muscular Co-ordination:
Coordination and body awareness in everyday activities is very important. This gets improved whenever “balancing” is required.

So out with the old, and in with the new!!
There is always enough room for improvement. As such, instead of focusing on cosmetic fitness, which may not serve any useful purpose, be wise and opt for functional fitness, for optimum gains.

No comments: