To Your Health
January, 2007 (Vol. 01, Issue 01)
Once you can control and balance your own body weight, you can start working with added weights. Put a five-pound dumbbell on a level chair, and then do the same one-legged squats, but this time, pick up the dumbbell as you come up.
Next, pick up the same weight from the ground while doing the squat. This challenges your total body integration and teaches the upper body to work with the lower body.
Other popular tools that promote functional exercise are stability balls and the "wobble board," both of which force you to work your core to keep your body balanced while you're lifting a weight.
When our car's tires are off balance, we use more gas and wear out the tires sooner. Plus, the car does not steer as easily as it would if the tires were balanced. The same thing happens with our bodies - when we are weak in one area, another area takes on the extra duties and, in turn, perpetuates the weakness and risks injury due to overuse/misuse.
When performed successfully, functional exercise can help maximize strength and minimize overuse of muscles that compensate for their weaker counterparts. This translates to overall improved health, the ability to more easily perform the activities of daily living, enhanced quality of life and greater independence.
The key to success is quality supervision and help in implementing a good functional fitness program. Look for a professional who holds a degree in kinesiology or other related field, someone certified by a national organization who holds education in working with clients with illness, injury, etc. Centers that specialize in post rehabilitation clients or athletes often have multidiscipline professionals who understand training from a functional perspective.
To find a trainer with a background in functional exercise in your area, visit www.acefitness.org or www.ideafit.org.
Miranda Mirsec, MA, CES, has specialized in adaptive physical health programming for more than 15 years in a diversity of settings, currently as director of health and wellness for the National MS Society. She is passionate about making it possible for individuals of all ability levels to access the wealth of benefits a healthy and active lifestyle can bring.