How Functional Fitness Can Keep You Active

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Exercises for Every Body

You don’t need to be in your golden years (or even middle-aged) to tweak your back while unloading the car or discover one day that you can’t reach behind and scratch your shoulder the way you used to. But you can reduce the risk of future pain and injury by learning a few simple exercises that will improve your functional mobility and make you feel better. Better still, you don’t need to go to a gym or work with a personal trainer to build the kind of everyday strength and flexibility that will benefit you at any age. Click through the slideshow above to get started!

What Is Functional Fitness, Anyhow?

There’s nothing particularly new about this kind of exercise. It borrows elements from yoga, physical therapy, and strength training. But being functionally fit isn’t the same as bulking up at the gym. “It’s exercise and movement methods that will help a person to perform their regular activities of daily living, along with the recreational physical activities they enjoy,” says Jarlo Ilano, a Seattle-based physical therapist and co-founder of GMB Fitness.

What Are Some of the Health Benefits?

Functional fitness exercises are designed to improve your day-to-day mobility, coordination, muscle control, speed of movement, and range of motion. Think of a plumber on the job. “He needs to be flexible and mobile to crawl around in spaces to fix toilets and pipes and drains. So positions such as kneeling, squatting, and moving in and out of them are [important],” Ilano says.

Do You Need to Join a Gym?

No, although a gym can help if you’re already physically fit or want to get in better shape. The simplest exercises — in which you use your own bodyweight — don’t require any equipment, Ilano says. “From the typical pushups and jumping jacks and all that we all did in P.E. to more individualized movements, you can learn and do these exercises with just a bit of space at home.” Once you’ve gotten the basic movements down, you can incorporate light hand weights ranging from 2 to 10 pounds into most of these exercises to build strength.

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