McLaughlin Care

900 North Shore Drive, #170 

Lake Bluff, IL 60044

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  • Dr. Julie McLaughlin

Why Functional Fitness?


Working out is not a one-size-fits-all activity, and functional fitness (also referred to as functional exercise) is a very specific kind of workout that achieves vastly different goals than most typical exercise routines.

What makes functional training different? Unlike other routines that are designed to either aid weight loss or build raw muscle, functional fitness is used to help individuals perform daily tasks with less strain and a lower chance of injury. Building muscle in one’s arms is one matter, but lifting heavy boxes or suitcases can cause injury to anyone who is unprepared - even those who work out everyday.

This is where functional fitness plays its role; functional exercise routines are designed to help anyone who may need to lift or even get up and down from a chair as it trains different muscles than most regular exercise routines. Participating in a functional fitness routine helps individuals with a number of daily tasks, such as moving boxes, carrying suitcases, or bringing in groceries. Functional training allows anyone to be well-prepared for lifting in their day-to-day life, without the need for extensive workouts.

The Importance of Balance

How does functional fitness differ from normal workout routines? Essentially, weight training and strength training focus on building specific groups of muscles, but do little to train the muscles to work together. This works for those who weight lift competitively, but do little to help

individuals perform everyday tasks more efficiently and safely.

Conversely, functional training trains participants to use their muscles together when lifting or transporting heavy objects, reducing the risk of injury. Because of this, anyone can benefit from functional training, no matter their overall fitness needs. Not only do participants of functional exercise have overall better fitness, they are able to properly use all of their muscles when performing straining tasks, which benefits them greatly in their day to day.

One of the main features of functional fitness is its incorporation of balance routines. Unlike most strength training which omits balance exercises as part of the routine, functional exercise focuses on helping individuals better their internal balance system, which makes it far easier to complete daily tasks such as bringing in heavy bags of groceries.

Stability is key to proper human function, and it is what allows humans to so efficiently walk on two legs. When the balance system is working properly, humans are able to see clearly when they are moving, and it allows them to orient themselves easily. A properly working balance system also allows humans to better assess the direction in which they are moving, as well as the speed. Finally, a properly functioning balance system allows people to make the proper posture adjustments needed when doing daily activities, which in turn minimizing the chance of injury.

It’s important for individuals to train their balance system so that they can move and function properly throughout the day, particularly when completing physically-exerting tasks, such as lifting or transporting heavy objects. This allows the body to maintain stability under nearly any circumstance, and minimizes the risk of falls or bodily injury during movement.

Balance is not always an issue for younger individuals, however it becomes an increasing problem as one ages. In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that 1 in 3 adults over the age of 65 will suffer a fall that results in injury, which can include severe hip injury (such as dislocation or breakage) and head trauma, both of which presenting risks of early death.

In order to avoid these risks, it’s important for individuals to train their balance system throughout their life, as it allows them to more efficiently function in their older years.

Your Muscles, Working as a Team

In contrast to functional fitness, typical strength workouts leave certain weakness in parts of the body, which can result in a higher risk of injury as an individual ages. Day to day movement is not taken into consideration when one undergoes strength training, and therefore it is not an effective method of preventing injury during daily tasks.

When certain muscles are being trained, others are left without attention, causing the body to overcompensate with other muscles when they are put under strain. This means that muscles which have been trained are now taking on more load than the muscles which haven’t been trained, which can in turn cause injury to the muscles in question.

Functional exercise is an effective way to combat this form of overcompensation, as it trains all of the muscles in the body to work together, which allows each of them to handle their designated load without issue (and without putting strain on the other muscles. In turn,

individuals can participate in everyday life without concern of injury.

Some of the specific workouts typically included in functional training include bending, pulling, sitting, lifting, pushing, reaching, twisting, and balance, as these exercises help to train the body’s muscles to work together. These exercises mimic the many actions humans make throughout their everyday life, allowing them to be more prepared for whatever may come their way.

Additional Benefits

Not only does functional fitness work to train muscles to work together, it also helps to mitigate bone loss. The movements typically included in functional fitness routines are known to increase the body’s ability to support its own body weight, which has been shown to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. This allows individuals who take part in functional fitness routines to live with a lower risk of bone loss or bone fractures.

In addition, the multi-joint, multi-plane movements incorporated in functional exercises helps to engage the body’s natural stabilizers, which in turn helps individuals improve their coordination. This reduces the risk of falls, and helps the brain to cope with day to day activities.

Components of Functional Fitness

As stated, functional exercise routines differ greatly from most strength training workouts, and there are a number of key components that make them different. Ideally, the perfect functional fitness routine will include the following:

  • Varying tasks to train a number of muscles groups.

  • Increasing difficulty as the individual progress through their training.

  • Training done on a regular and ongoing basis.

  • Integration of power, strength, core exercises, and balance.

  • Recognition of the individual’s overall state of health.

  • Feedback with regard to the progress being made over the course of the training.

Preparation is Key

While Functional Fitness has many benefits to offer individuals of all ages, they can also be challenging, for this reason we recommend a coach or fitness trainer to show you the proper techniques.

For most individuals, functional training should begin with bodyweight exercises rather than weight training. Weights can be added as the training progresses, however they are not necessary.

While the focus of functional fitness is to improve day to day life, it can also be used to supplement many other kinds of exercise, such as routines target you to lose weight, heart health, fat burning, and strength training. Because of this, functional exercises should be included into anyone’s fitness routine to give them an overall better well-being.

Whether you are looking to lose weight or simply improve your overall fitness, functional training has many benefits to offer you and your well-being. If you are looking to work with the best fitness center in Lake Bluff, contact us at McLaughlin Care today to learn more about your options. We offer a number of functional fitness programs, headed by our personal trainer Sarah Olson, and our mission is to help you achieve your fitness goals with the right Fitness coach at your side.

Functional Fitness at McLaughlin Care and 8 Weeks to Wellness in Lake Bluff / Lake Forest

Here at McLaughlin Care, we offer an 8 Weeks to Wellness program that will help you get into shape in just 8 weeks. Headed by Dr. Julie McLaughlin, our wellness programs are aimed at helping individuals of any age reach the health goals they wish to achieve, and with our state-of-the-art fitness center here in Lake Bluff, you can achieve your best health yet by working with one of our personal trainers or wellness coaches. We offer many different exercise programs, from those focused on weight loss, to strength training, to cardio workout. We also provide an in-house chiropractor to help you feel better in your own body before you leave our facility.

If you are interested in functional fitness, contact Dr. Julie McLaughlin today to learn more about your options. We can get you connected with one of our highly-trained wellness coaches, who will guide you on your journey to health and wellness.

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