If you suffer from pain, you have likely received advice about the therapeutic aspects of exercise. Exercise is good for your body and your mind. Exercise can help with weight control, increases flexibility and range of motion, can be an antidote to stiff joints and also has positive psychological components.
But what kind of exercise program should you embark on? There are so many exercise options out there. You can join a gym, enroll in classes, walk or run on your own or with a buddy. Weight-bearing exercises, cardio exercises, circuits, Pilates, yoga, high intensity, low impact…the list is dizzying.
Your physical therapist will surely encourage you to be consistent in exercising almost daily. Many physical therapists are also recommending that their pain patients aim for functional fitness.
Functional fitness exercises train your muscles to help you do everyday activities safely and efficiently. Functional fitness exercises work to train various muscle groups to work in tandem with one another. This helps to prepare you to perform the tasks you encounter at home and at work.
Instead of rowing at a machine, think about doing the rowing motion with hand-held weights while you are actually bent over at the waist or while standing up with your arms rowing parallel to the ground. This mimics lots of everyday motions: taking groceries out of the back of the car, lifting a child out of a car seat, or even doing various manufacturing jobs. This, then, is the epitome of functional fitness: a fitness routine that strengthens various muscle groups (in this case, arms, back, neck and shoulder muscles as well as strengthening your core) so that you can be “functionally fit” to do those desired everyday tasks.
Physical therapists as well as trained exercise consultants can help you develop a group of functional fitness exercises, based upon what you need to get through your day physically. Perhaps you are a caregiver for a loved one. Often, the tasks associated with caregiving (turning a person over, helping them transfer from lying to sitting to standing and back again) require a different type of fitness than just doing bicep curls at the gym. Other typical functional fitness exercises include squats (with both feet planted and with one leg planted), squats with an overhead press, lunges and what are called dead lifts.
As with all exercise routines, functional fitness should only be undertaken under the advice and consent of your physician.