Why Functional Training Remains the Biggest Fitness Trend for 2020

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Gone are the days when fitness was all about cosmetics and weight loss. Although both are still important motivators that keep big box gyms in business, the role of fitness has dramatically evolved over the past two decades to encompass health, longevity and quality of life.

Advances in exercise science have revolutionized sports and athletics, prolonging the careers of elite athletes and reducing the risk of debilitating injuries. Today’s military is fitter than ever, thanks to initiatives to provide on-base access to first-rate fitness centers. And average people are putting their bodies to the test with competitive participation in programs like CrossFit, American Ninja Warrior, triathlons and foot races ranging from a short 5k to ultramarathons exceeding 100 miles. But those super-fit individuals are the exception, not the rule.

If you are not athletically inclined, you may have decided long ago that fitness activities are not for you. But think again. Functional fitness empowers you to sidestep the many pitfalls of aging so you can enjoy peak quality of life at any age.

What is Functional Training?

People often joke about their aches and pains, the medications they take, their spreading waistline and their spotty memory, blaming it all on “getting older.” But the truth is that many of the health problems faced by Western cultures have little to do with the passage of time, and a lot to do with lifestyle.

Functional training is an approach to fitness that empowers you to meet the challenges of everyday life. Whether you sit at your computer, wash windows on skyscrapers, drive for Uber or play pro golf, functional training can help you maintain good health, retain fluid movement, avoid injury and ward off cognitive decline.

Rather than focusing on individual muscles or muscle groups, functional training zeros in on motor control, activating muscles in coordinated patterns to promote dynamic stability when performing any physical task. The end goal is not strength so much as efficiency in movement, enabling you to perform better in everyday activities.

Functional training programs are individualized to meet the health and performance goals of the client. They take into account what you currently do, what you would like to do, and your current health status. A well-designed functional training program can completely transform your quality of life, now and for years to come.

Who Needs Functional Training?

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Any living, breathing soul can benefit from functional training. Even people who are physically impaired or disabled can dramatically improve their quality of life. You don’t need to have lofty performance goals or aspire to a perfect body. Functional training simply helps you become and remain the very best version of yourself.

People who benefit from functional training include:

  • Sedentary office workers
  • Stay-at-home parents
  • Medical professionals
  • Police and firefighters
  • Educators
  • Bus and truck drivers
  • Retirees and older adults
  • Anyone who wants to look, feel and perform better from day to day

Computers, robotics and artificial intelligence promise to make many physical jobs obsolete in the coming decade. Human beings stand to become less physically active and more sedentary and sickly, unless we take concrete steps to secure our physical and mental health. With health care costs soaring and quality of health care declining, functional fitness provides an affordable and effective solution to offset evolutionary lifestyle changes.

Functional Training and Aging

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Many people think of fitness as a youth-dominated industry, which is true to a limited extent. But the fastest-growing demographic in fitness today is adults aged 50 and up. There are a number of reasons for this shift:

People who spawned the aerobics and running crazes of the 80s and 90s with their neon thongs and leg warmers were super fit. Most remain physically active, and they make up a substantial chunk of the older adult fitness market.

In the late 90s, then Surgeon General C Everett Koop proclaimed that, “Exercise is Medicine.” Since that proclamation, exercise scientists and the fitness industry in general veered away from cosmetics to embrace the health benefits of fitness.

A dramatic rise in metabolic disease over the past few decades has people searching for answers. Fitness activities have been shown time and time again to reverse markers for metabolic disorders like hypertension, diabetes, inflammation and heart disease, something not accomplished with drugs.

Poor balance, stooped posture, brittle bones and wasted muscle were once broadly accepted as an inevitable part of aging. However, evolutions in thinking have prompted modern adults to proactively seek solutions rather than succumb to physical decline.

Benefits of functional fitness for older adults include:

  • Improved memory and cognitive function
  • Reduced risk of metabolic disease and early mortality
  • Increased energy
  • Reduced anxiety and depression
  • Improved gait and balance
  • Reduced risk of injury from falls
  • Improved posture
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Greater independence
  • Improved overall quality of life

Where to Get Functional Fitness Training

There are innumerable resources for functional fitness programs across the web. If you have a background in fitness or athletics and are currently in pretty good shape, you may be able to piece together your own individualized functional fitness program. But if you are a fitness newbie or you haven’t seen the inside of a gym since college, you probably need a little more guidance.

Hiring a personal trainer may be a good solution if you don’t have any physical limitations or health problems. A trainer will ensure you use good body mechanics while exercising, to get the greatest benefit with the least risk of injury. However, most trainers do not have access to sophisticated technology, to assess and track performance metrics. And few have sufficient knowledge to identify and correct motor deficiencies that are invisible to the naked eye.

A sports physical therapist is a trained medical professional who understands human movement from the inside out. They go beyond basic fitness training, with the goal of optimizing performance, eliminating pain and reducing your risk of disease and injury. Using sophisticated tools for overall analysis, a sports physical therapist can create a customized functional training program for you to improve your health and enhance your overall quality of life.

Functional Fitness Training in NYC

At NYDNRehab, we take functional fitness to a whole new level with advanced technologies, innovative training methods and individualized data-based approaches to health and wellness.

Our functional fitness toolkit includes:

  • Gait analysis and retraining lab
  • Vestibular balance training
  • Virtual reality environment
  • Biomechanics lab
  • DNS (dynamic neuromuscular stabilization)
  • Alter-G antigravity treadmill
  • A broad range of equipment and resources to help you achieve optimal functional fitness

If you want to look and feel great, improve your mental and emotional health and prepare your body for whatever life throws your way, contact NYDNRehab today. Take charge of your health with functional fitness training, and enjoy the very best quality of life for years to come.

Resources

Liu-Ambrose, Teresa, et al. “Resistance training and functional plasticity of the aging brain: a 12-month randomized controlled trial.” Neurobiology of aging 33.8 (2012): 1690-1698.

Kramer, Arthur F., et al. “Fitness, aging and neurocognitive function.” Neurobiology of aging 26.1 (2005): 124-127.

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In this instance, an athlete was originally diagnosed with minor quadriceps muscle strain and was treated for four weeks, with unsatisfactory results. When he came to our clinic, the muscle was not healing, and the patients’ muscle tissue had already begun to atrophy.

Upon examination using MSUS, we discovered that he had a full muscle thickness tear that had been overlooked by his previous provider. To mitigate damage and promote healing, surgery should have been performed immediately after the injury occurred. Because of misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment, the patient now has permanent damage that cannot be corrected.

The most important advantage of Ultrasound over MRI imaging is its ability to zero in on the symptomatic region and obtain imaging, with active participation and feedback from the patient. Using dynamic MSUS, we can see what happens when patients contract their muscles, something that cannot be done with MRI. From a diagnostic perspective, this interaction is invaluable.

Dynamic ultrasonography examination demonstrating
the full thickness tear and already occurring muscle atrophy
due to misdiagnosis and not referring the patient
to proper diagnostic workup

Demonstration of how very small muscle defect is made and revealed
to be a complete tear with muscle contraction
under diagnostic sonography (not possible with MRI)

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Complete tear of rectus femoris
with large hematoma (blood)

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Separation of muscle ends due to tear elicited
on dynamic sonography examination

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