Functional Movement: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

When you’re looking at exercise classes or physical therapy, you may hear the term, “functional movement” to define the type of exercises you will be performing. If you know what functional movement is and why it’s important, you’ll have a better understanding of why you should incorporate these exercises into your life.

What Is Functional Movement?

Functional movement in exercise is any sequence of moves that mimic real-world movements. They work in the same direction, speed, and exertion level as your daily activities. These movements use multiple joints and muscle groups to engage in movements that simulate what you would do in a normal routine.

You may see functional movement exercises work across your body. They may engage your arms to lift and carry items while also using your leg muscles to move you from one place to another. Performing lunges with free weights in your hands is an example of functional movement. Yoga workouts can be designed to focus on functional exercises as well.

These exercises are designed using kinesiology. This science studies the mechanics of how movement happens. It allows the movements to be recreated in exercises that enhance your ability to move in the same way. It also uses neurology, which looks at how the brain maps all the movements.

Why Functional Movement Is Important

Functional exercises provide several benefits. Here are some reasons why it’s a good idea to add it to your workout regimen:

Improve Real-world Movement

Since functional exercises work your body in similar ways to what you do in real life, they can improve your range of motion, flexibility, and strength for your daily tasks. They are also unique to each person. If you bend a lot in your daily job, your exercises will focus on strengthening leg muscles and the lower back. A senior might work on exercises that help them get out of a chair easier.

Regain Balance

Functional movement improves stability and core strength, which can help restore balance. As people age, they naturally lose their ability to balance unless it’s maintained through exercise. Because you’re working multiple muscle groups at once, you’re teaching them to work together. This type of exercise can be helpful for people who are recovering from an injury because it focuses on strength and stability that are often lost during recovery.

Prevent Injury

Many people suffer injuries from performing real-world tasks. Functional exercises strengthen those muscles and joints to help them support you in your everyday activities. Stronger ankle joints and leg muscles can prevent a sprain if you fall. If you have strengthened your core, you’ll be less likely to suffer back muscle strain when you pick up a heavy box.

Enhance Athletic Performance

Athletes can benefit from functional training because it strengthens the same muscle groups they use in their sport. Squats may help a baseball catcher jump up faster to throw a runner out at a base. Leaps can help a basketball player move more easily around the court with the ball. These exercises also help prevent injury the athlete might sustain in the game.

Functional Movement Is Good for Everyone

Functional training isn’t limited to athletes or people of a certain age. These exercises are tailored to whatever activities the person engages in on an average day. A functional exercise regimen for a senior is going to look different than one for a high school athlete.

These exercises also work for all fitness levels. Even if you’re a beginner, you work at the level you feel comfortable with. As you progress, your exercises can increase in difficulty. They are also challenging enough for someone who is extremely fit to enjoy the benefits.

Besides improving your physical capability, functional exercise can boost your mood. Just like with other exercises, these workouts release endorphins and help you feel better and less stressed. If you practice functional exercises with yoga, deep breathing helps reduce your stress response to feel more relaxed.

Start Functional Movement for Your Own Benefits

Functional exercises can help you regain or improve your stability, flexibility, and overall health. They work for everyone, and you can start to see the results right away.

Whatever reason you’re considering functional exercises, you will find numerous benefits once you get started. Start at your own fitness level and discover how much better you feel with this type of movement.


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