This is a great exercise for anyone needing glute activation, hip stability, or core stability: It’s a functional exercise that hits all three – very high bang for buck! This is thanks to the limited knee movement and high hip range of motion. You can control the level of resistance by using a heavier or lighter band. Unlike many other exercises, this has a relatively limited depth through it’s effective range.
Here’s how to do it:
Stand with the band just above the knees, and step back half a step with one foot.
Keeping all your body weight on the front foot, sit down and back slightly with the hips – no more than a quarter of your full squat depth.
Keep a neutral spine as you squat, allowing your chest to “bow” forward.
Make sure your front knee doesn’t go past your toes. Another way to think about this is trying to reach the back wall with your bum.
Keep both hips facing forward; don’t let the “back” hip rotate backward.
Push through the front heel and squeeze glutes to return to starting position.
Push both knees out slightly into the band as you squat and return to standing.
Sleeping well is the most underrated and overlooked thing you can do for your health and fitness. Not only does a good night’s sleep help you feel better and get through your day more easily, it also keeps your body systems ticking along in tip top shape.
According to Sleep: A Health Imperative, published in the journal Sleep, 37.1% of American adults experiencing inadequate sleep; the number of Australian adults is similar at 39.8%, according to a report commissioned by the Australian Sleep Health Foundation.
That’s a lot of people not sleeping well, or enough. And as long as daily functioning isn’t impacted, why not spend more time on work and play? Well, because eventually sleep deficits can catch up to you. And it’s not just feeling it (things like simple tiredness, poor daytime function, and microsleeps) — it’s also your health.
Most research shows that 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night is what will keep you healthy. Less than 6 hours per night will drive a cumulative sleep deficit that stresses cells and changes how the brain (and therefore the body) functions. In turn, this changes the way your metabolism, immune system, and nervous system work. This sets the stage for:
Increased risk of hypertension (high blood pressure), coronary heart disease, and possibly stroke.
Increased risk of obesity, possibly due to changes in hormonal control of hunger signals, as well as decreased glucose tolerance and development of type 2 diabetes.
Increased risk of numerous types of cancer, including break, colon or colorectal, and prostate, which may be linked to an overall increase in cell damage throughout the body.
Ok, so it’s not good for you – you know that. Does that mean it’s time to make an appointment to see the doc for some sleeping tablets?
Nah. For most of us, good sleep is a matter of making some easy lifestyle adjustments. Start with the easiest and work your way through the list as you can or need to. Everything you do will help!
Make your room dark. Blackout blinds will limit light from outside. Inside the room, minimize any lights (from electronics or other devices), and a trusty eye mask will help if your partner insists on reading in bed.
Keep your room cool. Research suggests that optimal room temperatures range from 16-18°C, or 60-67°F, since that’s neither too cold (keeping you from falling asleep), nor too warm (causing restless sleep).
Make your bed comfortable. Find a mattress that gives you enough space, support, and comfort. The best mattress and pillow will allow you to stay in good posture while you sleep: with your head, neck, and spine in alignment. A mattress that is too soft will cause you to slouch, and a mattress that is too firm will put pressure on contact points like hips or shoulders. Pillows should allow your head and neck to stay in a straight(ish) line with your spine in your preferred sleeping position.
Make your room quiet. Loud or unusual noises will disturb your sleep, which you probably already know! If you live somewhere where this is common, using a white noise player (via specialized machines or simply any number of Youtube tracks) can help mask outside noises and lull you to sleep.
Develop a bedtime routine. When you create a routine around the tasks of going to bed, it helps your brain recognize that it’s time to wind down. This makes it easier to fall asleep, especially if your routine is a relaxing one.
Make your room a haven. Bedrooms should not be multi-purpose rooms; sleep scientists recommend only using your bedroom for sleep and sex. Choose paint, sheets, curtains or blinds, and other decor that you love, and going to sleep will be the best part of your day!
What exercises should you avoid? The Short Answer: None of them.
Ok, like everything in health care, that comes with caveats and exceptions that depend on your personal situation. But broadly speaking, exercise is GOOD for you – no matter your age!
Prompted by a facebook post I saw, I did a quick Google of “should exercise hurt after 40” (what the post itself specifically referred to). I was surprised and disappointed with the search results…
Squats – bad.
Running – bad. (Especially sprinting.)
Overhead shoulder pressing – bad.
Jumping, hopping, and plyometric exercise – bad.
Heavy weights – bad.
This list goes on and on. While there were a few exercises included that I do actually agree with (crunches and behind-the-neck lat pulldowns), that’s true for any age group, not just middle age or older.
In the sample of article I looked at, the rationale behind the exercises “to avoid” is that you might hurt yourself. This is a valid concern. However, these articles vastly over emphasize the risk of injury associated with the listed exercises. In fact, at times the suggestions are exactly the opposite of the recommendations made by numerous exercise science associations like the ACSMin the US, ESSAhere in Australia, or BASESin the UK – just to name a few.
Some of the most common exercises recommended to avoid, once in middle age and beyond:
Rationale behind avoiding this: Plyometrics are power-based exercises based on jumping, hopping, or throwing, all of which involve explosive power, high force production, and have the potential to be very high impact. It’s suggested that high impact could be damaging to your joints, especially if you don’t have a lot of muscle or strength, or are otherwise not used to training.Muscle mass and strength act as the joints shock absorbers and help the body absorb force, spreading it through the limbs and not just pounding it into the joints.
What’s the actual risk? It depends on how high or far you’re jumping or hopping, or otherwise how much “oomph” you’re putting into the exercise. Higher, farther, or faster requires more force, which in turn can lead to higher impact. Remember that impact itself is not a bad thing – higher levels of impact are in part what helps maintain and prevent loss of bone density.
How to do this – safely! Even though plyometrics are high intensity and high impact, they can be done safely with the right prep:
Warm up well with some lower intensity movement (could be on a bike or treadmill, or some easy strength work like body weight squats) so the muscles are best prepared to produce and absorb force.
If you’re new to plyometrics, you’ll still be able to safely do small movements like hopping from one foot to the other, or jumping up onto a small/short box, or jumping over a line drawn on the ground (think of playing hopscotch). Smaller movements help the muscles get better at the quick contractions needed for force production, while conditioning the joints and bones to better withstand impact. As you get stronger and feel better, you can work on going higher or farther.
Lastly, work on controlling the moment of impact – when you land, you’ll want to squat slightly once you make contact with the ground. This “sinking in” is what helps the body absorb and spread force, and is really the key to injury prevention with plyometrics – for any age.
Why you should do this kind of exercise: Developing muscular power helps maintain muscle mass, which naturally decreases with age (starting around the age of 30!). More importantly, plyometric exercise helps the nervous system stay sharp, maintaining agility and keeping your reflexes and reaction times quick. This becomes increasingly important with advancing age – good agility and fast reflexes make it easier to catch yourself if you trip or fall, significantly decreasing your injury risk.
Rationale behind avoiding this: Lifting heavy weights can create muscle strain and joint stress – presumably, anyway. Some of the articles I reviewed don’t even discuss why lifting heavy weights might be bad for you.
What’s the actual risk? The risk of lifting heavy weight is the potential for “too much (stress on your muscles/joints), too soon”. Your muscles and joints can be conditioned for heavy weight, but picking up something really heavy without preparing your body for it does create higher injury risk.
How to do this – safely! Heavy is all relative. In strength training terms, “heavy” usually refers to a weight you can lift five or six times, but not more (and sometimes fewer). For each person, and for each exercise, that weight will be different. What’s “heavy” to you might not be heavy to the person next to you.
For functional strength, a “heavy weights” workout means choosing a weight that you can lift 4-6 times in a set, and still feel like you could have done one or two reps more. As you get stronger, you’ll be able to increase that weight for the same number of reps. If you’re a strength-training beginner, you may want to take a few weeks or even a couple of months doing higher rep sets (i.e. 8-10 reps per set) to help condition your muscles and joints to handle the load.
Also important when lifting heavy weights: Warming up, in this case with trigger pointing or foam rolling, dynamic stretching (stretching with movement), and light weight sets of your chosen exercise(s). This helps prepare your muscles and joints for the heavier sets to come.
Why you should do this kind of exercise: Loss of strength is one of the major factors that limits quality of life and your ability to keep up with it. Heavier weight lifting helps you maintain strength as well as muscle mass. If you lift weights without challenging yourself, you miss out on the opportunity to keep yourself strong and capable.
Sprinting and High Intensity Cardio
Rationale behind avoiding this: Naysayers will tell you that sprinting, jumping jacks, and other high intensity and high impact cardio can cause joint damage and put your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other soft tissues at risk for injury. As with heavy weights, this is said to be due to the powerful muscle contractions that create high intensity movement, as well as higher impact loads on the joints.
What’s the actual risk? Way lower than you think. Consider this: A study of 3000 masters athletes with an average age of 53 years, encompassing a wide range of track and field events, found that less than 2.5% of people presented with injuries related to high intensity efforts. That doesn’t automatically mean that you are free and clear to go as hard as you like. After all, this group was studied during competition, meaning that they had been in training for these types of efforts. But it also shows that you can safely train and compete with high effort.
How to do this – safely! Again, as with heavy weights, effort and intensity is all relative. One of the best ways to track your workout intensity is a 0-10 scale of effort (in exercise science, we talk about this as a Rating of Perceived Exertion, or RPE). If you aren’t used to high intensity exercise, ease into this sort of training with just a few short efforts (periods of time, i.e. 10 seconds). You might try include 10-20 seconds of faster walking, running, cycling, or whatever cardio you are doing, at a faster speed or higher intensity, so that you are feeling like it’s a 6 or 7 out of 10 effort. Make sure that you are well warmed up with the right sort of stretches and DIY massage for the muscles you’ll be using. Bonus: If you are planning on getting into high intensity exercise, treat yourself to a remedial or deep tissue massage to get your body better prepared.
Why you should do this kind of exercise: High intensity exercises are great bang for your buck.
You can burn the same amount of calories as a low intensity working in a much shorter time frame, which is great when you have a lot of other things in life going on and struggle to fit workouts in.
High intensity means higher heart rates during the workout as well. In turn, this leads to a phenomenon called Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption, or EPOC. Basically, when your body is working super hard, it’s using up a lot of stored fuel in the form of glycogen (what carbohydrates are broken down into) and fat molecules. After a workout, your body will still be working hard – to replenish those fuel sources, so you’ll still be burning calories after your workout. The harder the work, the more you’ll burn afterwards.
You’ll do your bones a favor: High intensity exercise (either moderate to heavy weights, or higher impact exercises like sprinting, jumping, or plyometrics) will stimulate your bone to grow stronger, or at the very least limit bone loss. This is especially important if your calcium or vitamin D levels are low (both of these are necessary for good bone density), or if you have or are at risk of osteopenia or osteoporosis.
The Bottom Line
Any exercise can be bad for you, or have high risk of injury, depending on your personal circumstances. However, most exercises can also be safe for you, provided you use some common sense with your approach. Your rules of thumb:
Keep it pain free
Good joint alignment makes for good exercise technique
“Challenging” doesn’t mean “On the verge of passing out” – For weights, this means getting to the end of a set and thinking you could have done just one or two more with good technique.
Pay attention to your body – Difference between hard work and injury
Don’t slam yourself around – Whether you’re doing jumping, hopping, or other plyometric exercises, climbing up the stairs, or using a weight machine, control is the name of the game. If you can hear a thud when you make contact, try to slow down the movement slightly.
Use common sense and listen to your body, and you can have a lifetime of good workout and good health ahead of you, no matter what age you start.
The idea of reaching 10,000 steps on a daily basis is daunting for many people. In the US, one count averaged daily steps at 4800, and in Australia the average hits around 7500 steps per day. That’s a bit of time on your feet – but still well below the 10,000 steps that gets tossed around a lot. It bears asking:
How much do you risk by not hitting your 10K target?
Less than the publicity would make you believe. As it turns out, there’s no real scientific basis for the recommendation of reaching 10,000 steps. Rather, this number likely originated in Japan in the mid-1960s, either as part of a marketing campaign for a pedometer, or based on the name of a pedometer brand. As an aside, it’s reallllly convenient for such a nice round number to be the magic number we need for health. Our bodies don’t often work on such easy numbers!
That said, the number of steps you take every day does have an impact on your overall health. Numerousstudiesshowthat the more steps you average on a daily basis, the healthier you’ll be. This tends to mean that you’ll enjoy a longer life span, with a higher quality of life, than if you average fewer steps on a daily basis. Somewhat frustratingly, there doesn’t seem to be a minimum number you do need in order to achieve health benefits; We just know that the more you do, the better your health will be. As for getting steps just walking around, rather than going for a walk to workout (or other exercise, for that matter)? Interestingly, health markers and life expectancy seem to be strongly linked with just being on your feet more, as a designated workout or not.
In one recent study, the biggest decreases in risk of death occurred when inactive women became more active – even if it was nowhere near the 10,000 mark! Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers looked at the daily step count of about 16,000 older women over the course of a week, and found that in the 4 years following the study, those in the lowest step count group were also the most likely to die. This was found even at the relatively low end of the step count spectrum: women who averaged approximately 4400 daily steps had lower mortality rates than those who took about 2700 steps a day. A higher number of daily steps saw an additional decrease in overall death rates, up through about 7500 steps daily.
So don’t sweat the 10K mark – just get up and get moving!
Using an elliptical machine or cross-trainer is a close substitute for walking or jogging on a treadmill or outside. Your body should move in roughly the same way, whether you’re walking around during day to day life, cruising on the treadmill, or turning the pedals on an elliptical machine.
When you walk, jog, or run, your heel leaves the ground as your back leg powers you forward. This same movement is used with an elliptical trainer. The main difference (obviously) is that you don’t actually go anywhere. To get your workout in and heart rate up, you still have to move the pedals, which requires the same “push” from the back leg that you use to move yourself forward when walking or running. (If you’ve tried using the crosstrainer with your heels stuck flat, it’s probably felt kind of awkward, yeah? That’s why!)
That doesn’t mean that you should spend your whole workout without your heel on the pedal – that would be like walking around on your toes all the time. Your heel should lift at least slightly as you bring your back leg forward, and be in contact with the pedal as your leg moves from in front to behind. How much acutal “lift” you get will depend on the machine you use, as some have a more oval-shaped pedal track, which will require more heel lift, and some will have a more circular pedal track, which might have little lift, or even just a shift of your body weight onto your toes.
The heel lift is part of your normal stride or gait. But it’s just one piece of the puzzle in efficient walking, running, or crosstraining. Lifting your heel as your back leg prepares to swing forward helps connect your foot and ankle with the other muscles in the back of the leg, and through the back to the opposite arm (using an opposite arm-leg swing pattern helps us stay balanced and not falling over). The muscles of your calf contract to lift the heel and push the foot into the ground, working in a coordinated pattern with the other muscles used in your stride pattern. Changing the way you move one part of your body (or prevent movement) can greatly impact many other body parts, and may predispose you to higher stress and strain on your soft tissues and joints.
I’ve answered a similar question over at Quora if you want more info. But your best bet? Let your body move naturally. If you’re not in pain during or after your workout, you’re likely ok!
Have your own question about your health and fitness? Submit it to email@example.com get a clear answer on how you can move easily and feel great.
A new study has found that Vitamin D supplementation might not provide as much cardiovascular protection as we thought.
Previous observational and prospective studies (that is, studies that look at what happens without trying to influence the outcome) have seen a link between low vitamin D levels and higher risk of cardiovascular events like heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular disease (heart disease) that may lead to death.
This recently published meta-analysis (a study that combines and analyses the results of several previous studies, providing stronger evidence) has found that vitamin D supplementation did not actually have any effect on cardiovascular disease risk.
It’s important to note that while this study did not show a link, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we are 100% certain one doesn’t exist. However, it may be that there is a different link between vitamin D levels and risk of heart disease. For example, much of our vitamin D is actually created in the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight. If you are regularly active, you’re likely to get outdoors more – even if it’s just walking from the car into the gym. Since small “doses” of sunlight (in most of Australia, 10-20 minutes per day is plenty) is enough to keep vitamin D levels normal, it might be that your activity or exercise levels are keeping your vitamin D high and your heart healthy (sunscreen blocks the body from creating vitamin D, so take that into consideration too). This is always the challenge with healthcare and health research – it’s difficult to completely control all possibilities!
What does this mean for you?
Unless you are taking vitamin D specifically for cardiovascular protection or heart health, without being told to by your doctor, this news probably won’t have much of an impact on you.
Of course, if you are taking vitamin D pills, tablets, or other supplements because your doctor or dietitian told you to, keep doing so! Vitamin D plays many roles in the body, including supporting immune function and musculoskeletal health. If you’re not sure whether you need to increase your vitamin D intake, speaking to your GP or a registered dietitian is your best bet. Of course, we all feel better and are more healthy with a bit of extra activity, so you can always take yourself outside!
Do you have one small, painful spot on your back? Right where the blue arrow is pointing?
Pain in this area is one of the main indicators of sacroiliac joint (SI joint, or SIJ) pain. This pain can occur when the joint between your sacrum (your tailbone) and your ilium (the big curved bone of your pelvis) gets pulled out of alignment, usually because of tight muscles around the hip.
Wait, I have a joint there?
You do! The pelvis isn’t one solid block of bone. It’s actually made up of five bones that fit together like puzzle pieces to form a more-or-less solid girdle. I say more or less because there can be some slight give in the joints between the bones. The three bones of the hip (the ilium, the ischium, and the pubis) are fused, and your SI joint is the connection between your sacrum and your ilium.
This joint functions a little like a zipper, with strong layers of ligaments holding the two pieces together while still allowing some small amount of movement. But it’s built for stability, and too much movement or pull in any one direction and you’ll know about it, often with a pain at the back of the hip, towards the top of the SI joint.
The Snowball Effect: The SIJ version
When we have pain or trauma (like slipping and falling, or jarring a joint) to joints, muscles, or other tissues, the body quickly tightens muscles around the area to help protect it from further damage or irritation. Great! Except that the protective tension can also lead to additional irritation via the misalignment discussed above.. And the ball rolls on until you put a stop to it.
Ok, so what should I do if my SI joint hurts?
Joint misalignment is often due to tight muscles, fascia, and other soft tissues; Your SI joint has a lot of muscles and fascia surrounding it. (If you want to dive deep into the muscles, ligaments, and bone related to the SIJ, go here. So loosen them up!
Trigger point self-therapy in the glute region, the adductor region (inner thigh), the outside of the hip, and even through the lower back can provide relief from SIJ pain. All you need is a tennis ball! Here’s how: sit or lay on the tennis ball, or lean into it by pinning it against a wall in the areas shown below.
Trigger Point for Glute (Bum) Muscles
Sit with the tennis ball pressing into the soft tissue to the side of the sacrum (tailbone). Roll it or move it up and down to find tight spots and hold it until the tension or soreness disappears. Use a moderate amount of pressure – it should feel like “good hurt”.
Trigger Point for Adductor (Inner Thigh) Muscles
Lay face down with one knee out to the side, hooked over the roller so the roller is pressing on the inner thigh, foot to the outside of the roller. Roll it or move it up and down to find tight spots and hold it until the tension or soreness disappears (it’s safe to apply pressure this way anywhere between just above the knee and the crease of the hip). Use a moderate amount of pressure – it should feel like “good hurt”.
Trigger Point for TFL and Glute Min (Outside Of Hip) Muscles
Lay on your side with a tennis ball in the fleshy part of the outside of your hip, or pin the ball against the wall in the same area. Hold pressure until the tension or soreness disappears, then move to find a new spot (move towards the front or back of the hip). Use a moderate amount of pressure – it should feel like “good hurt”.
Secondary causes can be tight muscles farther from the joint. Give them a stretch with one of the following stretches:
Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
Kneel on one knee and take a BIG step forward with the other side. Squeeze the glute on the back leg, and drop the hips forward to stretch the front of the hip on the back leg. Not feeling the kneeling? Here are other ways to stretch your hip flexors.
Pretzel Glute Stretch
Lay on your back and cross one ankle over the opposite knee. Draw the knee back towards your chest, bringing the ankle with it, and hold in place by wrapping your hands around your shin or the back of your thigh (between your thigh and calf).
Knee Hook Stretch for TFL and Glute Min
Lay on your back with both knees bent, then drop both knees to one side. Hook the ankle of the bottom leg over the knee of the top leg to pull the knee slightly towards the floor.
Important Safety Reminder!
The trigger points and stretches above are great for SI joint pain, but that doesn’t mean they are right for every single person. If you feel pain with any of these, please stop immediately and seek treatment with a remedial massage therapist, an osteopath, or a physiotherapist (or physical therapist). They’ll be able to give you a better idea of what’s going on, and to treat you appropriately.
Live in an apartment that has a gym in the building? It’s so convenient… for you and everyone else!
Most apartment complexes with gym facilities have a treadmill, a stationary bike, and sometimes an elliptical or crosstrainer machine. There’s usually one of everything and that one is frequently in use, especially if you’re working out before work or after hours. But why tie yourself to the same old gym equipment? Here are some fresh workouts that you can use for cardio or aerobic exercise, without slaving away on the treadmill… In fact, you can stay away from the cardio machines entirely.
These workouts are travel friendly as well, allowing you to keep on top of training even when you’re away from home. Perfect for hotel gyms or even your hotel room if you’re happy to travel with an exercise band (the superband referred to below). And of course, great for home workouts too!
Body Weight Circuit
Jumping jacks/Star jumps
Side to side hops
Plank shoulder taps or Plank shift
Complete 2-5 rounds of 10-15 reps per exercises. See it in action here!
Super Band Workout
Superband front squats
Superband shoulder press
Superband bent over row
Superband monster walk (side-to-side and front-to-back)
Complete 2-5 rounds of 8-12 reps per exercise. See it in action here!
Bent over row
Complete 2-5 rounds of 8-12 reps per exercise. See it in action here!
With any and all of these exercises, remember that:
Only perform exercises that you can do safely and pain-free. If you aren’t used to moderate or high intensity exercise, chat with your doctor before starting an exercise program. You can test your Exercise Readiness with this quick questionnaire.
All of these workouts are flexible. If you like or dislike certain exercises, you can swap them out, or just add others in to create more variety. Choose your own adventure!
If you’re keen to workout on your own? Keep yourself going with this additional recommended reading:
It was 12 degrees this morning as I headed in to see my first client. Twelve degrees on the scooter! That’s fresh, baby! (That’s also just over 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and the sun was shining. I am definitely spoiled.)
I made sure I had a warm breakfast to get me through the morning though. I love this as a winter breakfast option, especially since it’s an easy, make-ahead-and-assemble-as-needed breakfast AND full of vegetables, my favorite thing. By pre-roasting your veggies, you can just scoop what you want into a bowl, throw it into the microwave, cook up an egg or two, and you’re good to go!
Warm Winter Breakfast Bowl
This will make several breakfasts’ worth, perfect for a fast weekday breakfast with loads of veggies. And you can’t go wrong with the goodness of a runny egg yolk.
1 medium butternut squash
2-3 red capsicum (bell pepper)
1-2 cups cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, minced
4-6 cups loosely packed fresh spinach
1 block (appx 400g) Danish feta cheese
Eggs (as many as you like)
Fresh black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400°F / 200°C. Chop butternut squash and capsicum/pepper into two cm/one inch pieces, and halve the cherry tomatoes. Combine these in a large bowl with olive oil, salt, and garlic. Mix well. Add vegetable mixture to roasting pan, and roast 25-30 minutes, until vegetables are soft and have delicious brown spots. While vegetables are roasting, heat spinach in a frying pan with a sprinkle of water until just wilted.
Mix the roasted vegetables and spinach together gently. If you’re making ahead, all veggies can be stored in the refrigerator for several days (if they last that long!).
When you’re ready to eat, scoop 1-2 cups of the veggie mix into a bowl and reheat if needed. Fry an egg or two (or whatever your protein needs require). Flake off approximately ¼ cup of feta onto the veggies, and slide eggs on top. Finish with a grind or two of black pepper, and enjoy!
This is the sort of recipe that ticks all the boxes: Healthy, Easy, and Delicious. This is what HealthFit Coaching’s Healthy Eating Support is all about! Check it out at this link.
“Functional” has been a buzzword in the fitness industry for years now. It likely conjures up images of someone exercising while standing on one foot, doing much of their workout sitting (or standing – though please don’t!) on a big rubber fit ball to switch on their core. Spoiler: This isn’t actually what it means!**
In reality, most exercise can be functional exercises: Functional exercises are those that have a direct benefit to the movements you make in real life, whether that’s going about your day to day activities, going to the gym to get stronger, starting a beginners running program, or even training to compete in a big race. There is no particular group of exercises that are “functional”.
** As people (personal trainers, coaches, clients, and athletes) have seen how little the above types of exercise help in daily life and performance, the industry has moved away from the balance and instability elements that are the hallmark of the early “functional” trend. In fact, these exercises can lead to poor exercise technique, increased compensation patterns, and minimal additional benefit. They aren’t terrible across the board, but you can make better choices with your time!
Writing A Functional Exercise Program
When I see a client who’s interested in getting into functional movement or exercise, I get really excited, since it lets me stretch my creative juices a bit (and also because these clients have the highest chance of long term success – winning!). The process starts with a good chat about what real life looks like for you, what kind of movements you might struggle with, what kind of movements you get pain with, and what you would like to be able to do more easily. We’ll do a brief movement screen to let your body tell it’s side of the story, since most of us have movement compensations we are not aware of, and then we’ll get started on creating a balanced exercise program to match your needs and goals.
Here’s where the art comes in. When I think about what exercises should go in this program, I think about the movements you make in daily life and/or training. I’ll pick exercises that are similar to those movements to help strengthen the muscles that keep you going day to day. I’ll also pick exercises that will turn on any muscles that aren’t quite pulling their weight in your normal movements (under-active muscles play a key role in injury rates) and exercises that provide a balance to your main working muscle groups, which will further decrease injury risk. You should be able to recognize your in your workout exercises that mimic the movements of your job, or that help you improve strength or cardiovascular fitness levels so that the activities of everyday life become easier.
Common Examples of Functional Exercises
Similar Real Life Movement
Sitting down and standing up, as from a chair
Walking up stairs
Picking up a small child
Carrying the grocery bags
Is Your Program Functional For You?
Whether it’s called functional or not, the best program will evaluate your daily movements, energy needs, and lifestyle goals, and focus on exercises that will improve or maintain your abilities in these areas. Not every exercise will seem like something a movement you make every day, since creating strength for movement can require different muscles and joint angles than you might expect. Your body is a complex machine, and it’s rare that you’ll ever sit down, stand up, walk, carry, or lift things in the same perfectly straight line every time! Overall though, you should be able to see the similarities to your daily life, and within a few weeks should be able to feel the benefits.
If you’re not sure that your program is ticking these boxes, HealthFit can help. Your exercise physiology program is designed to be done in-home, at your gym, or anywhere else you feel the most comfortable and likely to do it, and if that’s not functional, I don’t know what is!
HealthFit looks after residents of inner city Brisbane and the western suburbs, including Spring Hill, Paddington, Bardon, Rosalie, Milton, Auchenflower, Toowong, Taringa, St Lucia, Indooroopilly, Chapel Hill, Kenmore, Graceville, and Chelmer.