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Are Functional Fitness Workouts for You?

November 13, 2014 by Normand Richard, Certified Exercise Physiologist

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The fitness world is constantly evolving. From aerobic routines with questionable attire (remember Richard Simmons?) to fitness gadgets, there seems to be a new fitness fad every year. Of late, “functional fitness” routines have been gaining popularity. These are workouts that combine bouts of high-intensity aerobic and resistance exercises in a non-traditional setting – an example of such workouts is CrossFit™. Opinions on these routines are mixed. Let’s examine some of the pros and cons. 

Pros

  • Functional fitness routines are a way to get fit while reaping the health benefits of physical activity.
  • A workout routine is provided either in writing or demonstrated by an instructor.
  • Many of the movements are functional, meaning, they carryover in things you do in everyday life, e.g., squatting down to pick something up or reaching up high to take something down.
  • Routines are usually done in a supportive atmosphere where strong camaraderie with fellow fitness mates is fostered.

Cons (Note: these risks apply to any type of high-intensity exercise.)

  • Musculoskeletal injuries (injuries that affect your muscles, ligaments/tendons, or bones) can happen when performing incorrect techniques, using weights that are too heavy, and by doing too much too soon.
  • All of a sudden starting a high-intensity exercise program can be dangerous for those at risk of (or recovering from) heart disease or other medical conditions.
  • If you’re not used to intense exercise, delayed onset muscle soreness (pain and stiffness felt in muscles from 12 – 72 hrs afterwards) can happen. In severe cases, rhabdomyolysis (the breakdown and release of muscle cells in the blood causing kidney damage) can occur.
  • Instructors might not have the right certifications for the activities, or may not know how to train someone with your specific health needs. Here’s how to select a qualified exercise professional (QEP). 

High intensity training should only be done by older individuals and those recovering from a health event under the guidance of their physician or qualified exercise professional.

Take-home Message:

Try functional fitness routines, but consider:

  • If you are new to exercise or haven’t been active in a while, consult a QEP or your doctor first.
  • As with any form of physical activity, a gradual approach is best.
  • Alternate vigorous-intensity sessions with moderate-intensity ones, and incorporate a rest day or two in your week.
  • Listen to your body and know your limits! Don’t feel obligated to complete workouts above your abilities and don’t feel pressured by others.
  • Have fun and enjoy the camaraderie. 

For questions on how functional fitness routines will work for you, call the Physical Activity Line at 1-877-725-1149 and speak with a QEP.

What do you think about functional fitness routines? Have you ever tried one?


Related Blogs:

Warming Up and Cooling Down
Getting Started with Your Physical Fitness!

Recommended Resources:

Physical Activity Line: Injury Prevention
HealthLinkBC: Exercise and Physical Activity Ideas

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