LADIES, does your gym routine include functional fitness exercises? Are you doing a workout that will help you shift the weight and at the same time strengthen your body to help with the rigours of everyday life?

It’s not about using machines that isolate certain muscles...Instead it focuses on working with body weight and free weights encouraging whole body muscular engagement and strength.

Functional fitness has its origins in physical rehabilitation therapy practiced by physiotherapists when working with injured patients. More recently it’s been found to be of great benefit for general fitness and fat loss, but what exactly is it?

I’ve just returned from a few days holidaying in Venice – certainly not a rigorous adventure holiday by any stretch of the imagination but I did walk for miles, climb steps up and down countless bridges, clamber onto walls to capture that perfect shot, run to catch the water bus, lug a 20kg suitcase uphill and down dale, not to mention squat to an extremely deep level to use the precariously low Italian toilets.

Functional Fitness: SquatsFunctional Fitness: Squats

Functional fitness involves exercising in a way that mirrors all of those movements and more.  It’s not about using machines that isolate certain muscles – for example, sitting and pushing your legs against a big weight. Instead it focuses on working with body weight and free weights encouraging whole body muscular engagement and strength.The movements are compound so think squats and lunges, push ups and rows – all targeting big muscle groups. You’ll remember from my previous article, Lift weight to lose weight, big strong muscles are key for burning fat and losing weight.

Functional Fitness: LungesFunctional Fitness: Lunges

At the same time, when done properly functional exercises also require us to engage all of our core muscles. When we do isolated core exercises in the gym we generally focus only on the superficial outer core exercises but with functional fitness you start working with the real strength belt of core muscles (the transversus abdominus) located deep within the body.  As well as helping us towards that elusive six pack, a strong set of core muscles is vital for lower back health, good balance and posture.

Functional Fitness: Push UpsFunctional Fitness: Push Ups

As you can see, functional fitness is about so much more than weight loss. Sadly, it’s a fact that each and every one of us wonderful women is going to age. And with age comes more difficulty in performing everyday exercises, lessened mobility, creaky joints and vague aches and pains. If you’ve not experienced it already, you probably know someone who has.  Practising functional fitness exercises is a great way to improve movement and flexibility in the joints delaying the onset of mobility issues or, if you’re already experiencing them, stopping them getting any worse.

Why not give functional fitness a try, I’d love to hear how you get on.

Functional Fitness: RowingFunctional Fitness: Rowing

Sara Perry is a Personal Trainer & Development Coach passionate about helping women over the age of 40 live fitter, happier and healthier lives. 

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