Functional fitness is a broad concept with many definitions, applications and interpretations. As a senior fitness specialist, my interpretation of functional training can be best described as purposeful learning or training that is purposeful, intentional, task driven, individualized, integrated and aimed at real life activities.
At its very best, functional training is fluid in nature and enables a trainer to be creative and apply his/her knowledge, education, and experience. I always start with consultation and assessments. When working with my clients, I strive to incorporate motor skills such as balance, coordination, gait, agility, strength, core, and flexibility in an attempt to train muscles in coordinated multiplanar/multi-joint movement patterns.
Functional fitness is particularly important for older adults. The better their neuromotor conditioning, the more likely older adults will be able to correct themselves, improve, and avoid injury.
Functional fitness and functional training are often used interchangeably but they are not the same. Fitness is the condition of being physically fit and healthy, whereas training refers to the lifestyle and exercise regimen that enables a person to achieve a state of fitness.
You may think of exercise as something you do to keep your heart and lungs healthy, maintain your weight, and control or avoid certain medical conditions. Those are great benefits and well worth your efforts, but what separates functional training from other forms of training are that it is individualized and enables older adults to maintain and create even better function in day-to-day activities such as climbing stairs, carrying groceries or playing with grandkids.
In my next blog I'll discuss why exercise is an important part of fall prevention as we age.