How to Train for Longevity with Functional Fitness

How to Train for Longevity with Functional Fitness

Charles Varghese |

How to Train for Longevity with Functional Fitness

In a recent 2023 study by Mindbody, one trend stood out among the rest. If the 2010s were defined by aesthetics and building a more appealing physique, then the 2023 (and now 2024) equivalent was functional training and longevity

The most notable takeaways from the Mindbody survey were:

  • The biggest motivator for exercise was “I want to live a long & healthy life.”
  • 51% of consumers choose to engage in movement that prepares their body for daily living
  • 33% said low-intensity/impact training was their preferred choice of exercise

Considering all of this, it becomes clear that the popular bodybuilding regimens of yesteryear need a complementary, functional training counterpart. 

What is functional fitness?

Functional fitness is a fitness approach dedicated to improving health to better tackle your daily activities. Now, that might sound a bit vague. Still, any exercise under the umbrella of ‘functional fitness’ will contribute to developing your body for improved balance, stability, functional strength, mobility, and critical attributes essential to your well-being. 

The beauty of functional fitness is that (generally) it can be done anywhere. We try to keep the functional strength exercises light, low-intensity, and low-impact so our body doesn’t wear significantly, but that doesn’t mean you won’t see excellent results. 

What functional fitness routine is right for you?

Each functional training routine mentioned below will contribute to a healthier, longer life, so the one you choose should align with your interests and secondary fitness goals. Sticking to any of the routines mentioned below will provide significant results whether that be muscle gain, improved cardiovascular endurance, or better flexibility and athleticism.  

Functional Strength Training

There are two types of lifts at the gym: isolation and compound. Both have their place in the lifting hierarchy, but one is significantly more important for functional fitness.

Isolation exercises build muscle by targeting specific muscle groups, but they aren’t movements you’d see applied in real life. For example, consider the following: 

  • Lateral Shoulder Raises
  • Bicep Curls
  • Tricep Extensions
  • Rear Delt Flys

When was the last time you lifted something with your shoulders… sideways? How often do you curl a grocery bag (and no, not for fun)? And the rear delts are hard to use even when you’re TRYING to use them. 

These are not functional exercises; unless you’re trying to become a bodybuilder, there are better ways to build a functional body. 

Enter compound exercises:

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Bench Presses
  • Overhead Presses
  • Barbell Rows

Each of these functional fitness exercises works multiple muscle groups, and you probably do them without realizing it. Every time you kneel down to pick something up — that’s some variation of a squat or lunge. Trying to pick up a heavy box? Better get that deadlift down or you might hurt your back. Anything you push or pull in your day-to-day life will engage muscles used during chest presses or rows.

These are functional strength exercises, and they’ll help you keep living the life you want to live as you get older.  

Calisthenics

Calisthenics is nature's functional strength training program. Many traditional bodyweight exercises are considered compound exercises, and they develop functional strength just like you would lifting weights. 

These exercises include (but are not limited to):

  • Push-ups
  • Pull-ups
  • Bodyweight squats
  • Planks
  • Dips

Since you’re using your own body to do these functional fitness exercises, you not only gain the physical benefits of increased muscle mass and muscular endurance — you also develop a finely tuned sense for stability and balance. And the biggest perk of calisthenics is the most obvious; you don’t need any equipment. It’s endlessly accessible and tracking progress is as simple as adding volume to each workout.

But if you REALLY want a challenge, try our Weighted Vest. You do the same movements — you just feel a bit more accomplished after doing them. 

Exercise Bikes

Exercise bikes are functional training's best-kept secret; they offer a low-impact, high-yield workout that hits all the right notes for longevity. The functional benefit of these tools is that they improve balance, leg strength, and cardiovascular health — all attributes that lead to a long and healthy life. 

As great as treadmills are for your cardiovascular endurance, they also aren’t ideal for everyone. The lack of cushioning stresses your joints, the consistent surface limits muscle activation, and as you get older, the risk of falling becomes a more present concern. The exercise bike ages well on your joints, and you will too if you use them.

Check out our Exercise Mats made specifically to secure bikes and treadmills.

Yoga & Pilates

In many ways, Yoga & Pilates share many of the qualities that those in the Mindbody survey were looking for — low-impact movements that prepare practitioners for their daily lives, all while decreasing the likelihood of injury. 

The case for Pilates as your functional fitness routine is a strong one as the pursuit of longevity demands full-body mastery. Pilates, unlike resistance training, introduces new movements that develop the mind-body connection. As your body adapts to one motion, the next level is an entirely different movement that will engage a new set of muscles. With constant progression that isn’t reliant on external resistance, Pilates is the perfect routine for maintaining a long and healthy life.

The Pilates Resistance Ring is one of our favorites to add a new dimension to your routine. 

Other Training Methods

The number of functional fitness activities that can add to your longevity are endless. If none of the routines above caught your interest, there are plenty of low-impact, functional workouts that can make your body feel incredible.

Here are a few additional functional training routines that you can consider: 

  • Swimming: Training in water takes the stress off your joints and lengthens them for greater mobility, strength, and balance.     
  • Medicine ball workouts: Medicine balls can be an extension of your body OR a tool to build explosive power. The versatility of these tools — particularly the deadweight balls — can supercharge your performance without wearing on your body. 
  • Kettlebell workouts: Kettlebells are single-handedly carrying workout routines. The Kettlebell Swing alone is a tremendous cardio workout, muscle-building exercise, and fat-burning routine.
  • Agility training: As you age, one of the first things to go is your equilibrium. You can counteract that to an extent by developing coordination with agility drills. The agility ladder is a great way to be intentional about your movements, and it builds muscle memory that translates to a more confident stride.

Let us know which functional fitness routine you’ve picked up!

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