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Learning to move well can challenge what it means to be fit

What does an empty dishwasher have in common with a body sculpt class? The answer might surprise you.

We associate pushing, pulling, lunging, and squatting with the sweat and burn of workouts, but these moves are just as relevant for powering us through our daily lives.

In exercise, everyday movements are targeted through an approach called functional training. It teaches the correct muscles to engage when lifting a heavy pot plant, or the posture and core stability needed when bending to retrieve plates from the dishwasher and placing them in an overhead cupboard.

Functional training helps to automate the internal voice reminding us to “bend at the knees” or “watch your neck” when lifting a heavy object or twisting ourselves into odd angles.

Using several joint and muscle groups, conscious movement with correct alignment improves strength, control and mobility for the real-world patterns our bodies face.

Functional benefits

Functional training helps to:

  • improve posture, muscle tone, stability, balance, and range of motion.
  • encourage good form to avoid injury.
  • train the body for the activities of daily life, through motions that pull, push and rotate.
  • build co-ordination as the body learns to function as a whole system.

Adopting a functional training mindset is surprisingly easy given the raft of opportunities to incorporate it into the everyday. A lamb roast is our kettlebell, the couch a squat machine, and the dishwasher a targeted core, obliques and butt workout. Who knew prepping dinner could be so good for us?

Moving with greater awareness is the first step to being more active through a functional mindset. Consider how you might move more functionally in the following scenarios:

  • Pushing your child on a swing OR opening and closing car doors. How can I brace my core stomach muscles and breath out as I push with my arms?
  • Sitting down and standing up from the couch. Can I challenge myself to lift or lower with control, good posture, and minimal assistance from my hands?
  • Emptying the dishwasher. Can I bend at the knees with a straight back to retrieve clean dishes, then brace my core and press overhead to place them in a cupboard?
  • Unpacking groceries. Am I conscious of my posture when squatting to put cans in cupboards or glass containers in the fridge?
  • Lifting children or household items. Am I bending from the knees, engaging my stomach and butt muscles while breathing out as I lift?

Super swaps at home

Ready to up the ante? Create an at-home circuit and see how many repetitions you can do for each activity:

  • Couch squat reps: sit down and stand up with good form.
  • Water bottle rows/curls: activate biceps and triceps without the need for dumbbells.
  • Pot plant squats: stabilise, bend at the knees and keep a straight back.
  • Lamp lunges: hold a small lamp from the lounge room or bedroom in one hand while lunging with the opposite leg.
  • Roast rotations: sit on the floor with your knees bent and gently rotate your torso from side to side, holding the roast for resistance and keeping a straight back.

Functional movement is your fitness friend for the real world, proving a more active life starts with a mindset – no special equipment or pricey memberships required.

Login to Get Active Victoria to try Stewart’s everyday movement activity.

Last updated: September 26, 2023 at: 11:36 pm