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Benefits of Functional Training

Updated on February 15, 2010
Image taken from and used under Creative Commons- Attribution licence
Image taken from and used under Creative Commons- Attribution licence

Functional Training is an important and useful form of exercise that can benefit a variety of people from different backgrounds. Put simply, functional training is designed to assist a person to safely perform their day to day activities.

Functional training can be applicable to the workplace, or home life. For example, complications and injuries often arise from activities at work, which may include lifting and carry of items from one location to another. Complications such as strains and other injuries frequently occur through poor or incorrect lifting technique, often coupled with pre-existing biomechanical issues such as poor posture or lack of muscle flexibility. In this area, functional training can be designed to simulate movements carried out in the workplace, with emphasis on correct lifting technique and increased strength in both the main muscle groups as well as smaller supporting muscles. Targeted stretching and flexibility training can also be utilised.

Functional training is also applicable to home life, particularly with the elderly who desire to stay independent as they continue to age. It is well documented that an active lifestyle with an appropriate exercise routine is of great value in allowing older adults to remain mobile and independent, allowing for a better quality of life compared to their less active and frail peers.

The ability to carry out day to day tasks without assistance is a prime concern as a person gets older. Functional training can allow the elderly participant (and their family members) to be confident of their ability to carry the groceries to and from the car, up the stairs and to lift items on to high shelves. Correct lifting technique is of vital importance in such activities to prevent strains, over balancing and falls.

Falls are of great concern where elderly adults are concerned, and balance training can be included in the functional training routine to improve the chances of regaining balance after a slip or stumble. A variety of balance related training aids can be utilised, ranging from simply using a foam mat for a slightly unstable surface to specialised training equipment such as the Bosu.

Functional exercises involving standing from a squatting, kneeling or laying position on the ground can provide confidence in the ability to get back to one's feet unassisted if a fall should occur. These exercises also give the elderly subject the freedom to continue to persue activities such as gardening which require the ability to squat or kneel on the ground. It can be quite difficult for some of the more frail elderly people to simply stand up from a seated position on an armchair or sofa, making unassisted and independent living very difficult.

By maintaining an active lifestyle utilising functional training, balance related training and by maintaining flexibility and good nutrition, older adults can greatly improve their quality of life and increase their ability to safely live independently.


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