Functional fitness: Staying fit without the gym

Are you someone who hates the gym but finds exercise in their daily activities? Functional fitness is a kind of exercise that works out the muscles that people use to complete their day-to-day activities. Activities like carrying grocery bags, squatting down to pick something up, or walking up and down the stairs. While functional fitness refers to the intentional working out of these muscles, there are other ways people can exercise the muscles they use daily.

Exercises that are performed in people’s everyday life are usually compound exercises. Compound exercises are exercises which use multiple muscle groups at once, in contrast to isolation exercises that target one muscle group.

People do not have to follow a workout routine to be fit. Many tasks that are required of a person in their everyday life can serve as sufficient workouts. Grocery shopping is one good example. Shopping for food can be broken down into several different exercises and modified to fit each person’s lifestyle. For instance, depending on how far your local grocery store is and a person’s level of comfortability, one may choose to walk there. This is an effective way to accomplish the recommended daily 10,000 steps.

While at the grocery store there are many inadvertent exercises a person does. Many items require heavy lifting such as bags of flour, laundry detergent, and cases of drinks. The additional squatting up and down to get items can make for an efficient workout. Walking home with bags full of food uses several different muscles and makes the walk back home even more effortful. Additionally, engaging in activities one already has to do can make exercise less daunting.

Another example of one of these activities is cleaning/housework. Vacuuming the floor can be a great workout as it requires lifting a heavy vacuum, squatting to plug it in, and moving back and forth with the arms, legs and torso. For those who do not have a vacuum, sweeping and mopping can accomplish a similar outcome.

Other chores such as doing laundry may require walking up and down the stairs with a laundry basket full of clothes, squatting to transfer clothes from the washer to the dryer, and walking back and forth while putting clean clothes away. Many of these exercises mirror exercises people do in the gym. Walking up and down the stairs is a prime example that mirrors the use of the stair master. The heavy lifting of household items is similar to lifting weights but can be even more beneficial because of the use of multiple muscle groups.

However, it isn’t just menial chores that can offer people a daily workout. Fun activities like shopping and dancing are great ways to break a sweat. For those who enjoy a night out (or in), dancing with friends is a fun and effective way to get exercise without it feeling like exercise. Similarly, those who love getting outside can get exercise from a variety of outdoor activities including biking, hiking, and skiing as winter approaches.

With the omnipresence of social media, it can feel increasingly like the gym is the only effective way to get exercise. However, by looking at one’s daily activities and passions, people can get effective and functional exercise that often doesn’t feel like exercise. These functional exercises can maintain the muscles and mobility necessary to complete the tasks required of people in their daily lives. The capability to execute these tasks like chores, bending down to pick things up, and being able to participate in beloved hobbies like hiking in nature is essential to one’s physical and mental wellness and independence.

If you enjoyed this article check out 4 Great Outdoor Hobbies for Fall.

Author

  • Kayley Addis is an editorial assistant for Optimyz. She is a recent journalism graduate with an additional degree in sociology. She is passionate about social justice and telling people's stories.

Kayley Addis

Kayley Addis is an editorial assistant for Optimyz. She is a recent journalism graduate with an additional degree in sociology. She is passionate about social justice and telling people's stories.