Viral fitness videos are taking social media by storm. Challenges like the “old man test” make us realize we may not have the great balance we thought. One of the most popular trends is the “broomstick challenge.” This task requires the subject to hold a broomstick behind their back with their bent elbows, then lay down flat on their belly and get back up without using their arms. As silly as it sounds, this challenge is an excellent test of your core strength and flexibility—also known as your functional fitness.
What is Functional Fitness?
While bench pressing is spot-on for building defined pectoral muscles, it’s a type of training that serves little use in your day-to-day life. Functional fitness is physical training that helps you perform the physical movements you do regularly—and the types of movements that become critical as we age. These movements include squatting, walking, pushing, bending, sitting up, and pulling—to name a few.
Benefits of Functional Fitness
Whether it’s to increase mobility, get used to carrying around a toddler, or get faster at doing chores, functional fitness has a lot of benefits. As we age, functional fitness training can help us maintain a higher quality of life. Being fit in this area helps to reduce the risk of injury, increases our range of motion, improves balance, enhances posture, and helps us gain better muscle memory. When we focus on functional fitness, we develop good habits around body mechanics that help keep us independent and active for far longer.
Tips for Integrating Functional Fitness
- Strength: Bodyweight exercises like chair squats, push-ups, planks, and lunges all work out our large muscle groups and help us maintain our ability to get up from the ground, get out of bed, and rise from a chair. Practicing several reps of these moves each day is the perfect, equipment-free foundation for your fitness.
- Flexibility & Balance: Challenge yourself to finish a daily stretching routine that elongates your hamstrings and keeps your hip flexors mobile. Toe touches, runner’s lunges, and Downward Dog can help keep your body limber and let you keep tying your own shoes well into your 80s.
- Agility: Classic exercises like jumping jacks, mountain climbers, and burpees don’t just send your heart rate climbing. They put your body’s coordination efforts to the test. Movements like these reinforce your balance, strength, and cardio conditioning. And—as a bonus—they improve your ability to move quickly without toppling over.
The inspiration for this article was the “broomstick challenge,” but trends like these are a fun way to test your fitness level and involve the whole family—with a hefty dose of laughter. Try some of the internet’s many fitness challenges to monitor your progress toward better fitness.
- Standing balance challenge: Stand on one leg, lifting the other leg to 90 degrees. Hold your arms out to either side and count how long you can balance. Try the other leg. Try with your arms at your sides. Then, try with your eyes closed.
- Old Man Test: Lift one foot and put on your sock and shoe without that foot touching the ground. Still on one foot, bend over and grab your other sock and shoe, then switch feet to repeat the test.
- Rise Challenge: Lay flat on your back on the floor. Get up without touching the floor (or your legs) with your hands.
- Bar Stool Challenge: Sit toward the back edge of a bar stool, then place both palms flat at the front of the stool. Hold your legs away from the rungs. Using your arms and core muscles, try to lift your bottom off the stool.
- Plank challenge: This one is simple. How long can you hold a plank? Keep in mind, the world record is over 9 hours!
Plan your destination vacation around a race or bike tour. Not only will this motivate you to train for your race for months in advance, but after the race is over you can go Functional fitness should be a part of your activity plan, regardless of what else you do at the gym. But because these movements require no gear, a functional training routine is a great option to keep in mind when traveling or housebound. However you incorporate it, functionality fitness is an essential part of an active and uplifting life.