Exercise

Functional Training in Men’s Health

Fish & Field biokineticist Jolandi Strydom directing male athlete in functional training exercise for men's health

Early statistics of the coronavirus showed that the death rate was higher amongst the male population than the females. There are many theories for why this may be, but a common trend seems to be that men tend to have a higher comorbidity rate than women. Comorbidities being conditions like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, obesity and cancer to name a few. But why is there a health gap when it comes to men’s health?

What sets men’s health apart?

Ask any guy, and he will tell you that men are the stronger sex. His reasoning is understandable: in general, men are bigger, stronger, and more muscular than women. They can run faster, lift more, and throw things farther. Men rule on the playing field, but in medical terms, it is a very different story.

Men’s health is often neglected compared to women’s health, especially when it comes to prevention and early detection. Research shows that, compared to women, men generally lead less healthy lifestyles and tend to be more likely to smoke and drink alcohol. In addition, men frequently tend to put off routine check-ups and will often also postpone seeing a healthcare provider for symptoms of a health problem.

It has been shown that most of the health conditions and diseases men face can be treated and prevented. But only if caught in time. Men need to start taking better care of their health. To do so, men must first understand their risk factors and how they can improve their overall health.

Common Conditions affecting men

The most common conditions affecting men today are heart disease; prostate, testicular and colon cancer; as well as osteoporosis later in life.

Heart Disease

Risk factors for heart disease include high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, cigarette smoking, physical inactivity, increasing age and a family history of early onset of heart diseases.

Most of these conditions mentioned have a link to bad eating habits such as high cholesterol food with high saturated fat and trans-fat content, and a high level of alcohol intake.

Cancer

Risk factors for cancer for men include overweight/obesity, high-fat diet, low fibre diet, excessive alcohol intake and physical inactivity.

Osteoporosis

Many people tend to think that osteoporosis as a disease associated with women, but men are at risk too. Risk factors for osteoporosis include increasing age, family history, tobacco use, long-term use of corticosteroids, excessive soda consumption, excessive alcohol intake, low calcium intake and physical inactivity.

What are the solutions?

Dietary changes to reduce your risk is very important, along with physical activity.

When looking at your diet, it is recommended that men should reduce the amounts of saturated fat as well as trans-fat. They must increase their intake of high fibre foods and limit their alcohol consumption. It has also been found that omega 3 fatty acids are very good for men. Research has shown that omega 3 fatty acids assist in keeping blood pressure down.

Physical activity

Physical activity is extremely beneficial when it comes to men’s health. Exercise has immediate as well as long-term health benefits. Research has shown that doing physical activity or exercise can improve your health and reduce the risk of developing several diseases like type 2 diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. It can also help to reduce levels of depression and anxiety, reduce anger, assist in weight loss, help you sleep better as well as improve testosterone levels as you age. It is recommended that a minimum of 30 minutes physical activity a day will allow you to enjoy these benefits.

Fish & Field biokineticist Jolandi Strydom directing male athlete in functional training exercise for men's health
Single Leg Bridge

Functional Training

Although most men tend to hit the gym and only focus on building muscles, functional training is shown to be the best exercises for improving health, becoming stronger and fitter, and increasing energy levels.

“The main word here is function. Function is purpose. So functional training is just training that has a purpose,” says Eric Salvador. More than that, functional training is focused on movement patterns that have a purpose.

The primary purpose of functional training is to get better at everyday activities; like walking, squatting to pick up something heavy, pushing a revolving door, or getting in and out of a chair. It is also practiced by athletes preparing to compete in a sport, like a triathlon. A functional workout is simply one that strengthens you in a specific way that directly interprets to an activity outside the biokinetics room.

Functional training is focused on multi-joint training. This means that a program will consist of movements in multiple planes, harnessing compound exercises require more than one muscle group to work together. This type of exercises typically mimic everyday movement patterns, like pull, push, squat, hinge, rotation. Compound exercises are typically better than isolated exercises, like a biceps curl. Think about it: How often do you simply stand in one place and lift something from waist level with just using your biceps? Probably seldom, if ever. So, the question is: how often do you squat to lift something off the floor? Lunge to tie your shoe? Push a door open? Or pull something out the way?

Fish & Field biokinFunctional training exercise for men's health by Fish &Field Biokinetics in Bryanston, Sandton
Lunge with a forward TheraBand shoulder press

Benefits of functional training for men’s health

The benefits you will get out of functional training are centered around increasing the ease of everyday life. It improves the overall function of your body, boosts your muscle strength and endurance, and develops muscle and body stability for everyday activities. Functional fitness tends to out-weigh everything else because it targets movements we are doing every day.

Exercises associated with functional training are usually low impact, which is a great starting point for anyone at any fitness level. If you are starting a new exercise regime, or perhaps returning to physical activity after a lapse, you may be uncertain about what is going to work best for your needs. But functional training will help to improve all your physical abilities without causing stress to your body and joints.

Builds Muscle Memory

One of the greatest benefits of functional training is that it develops greater muscle memory. By performing consistent functional fitness exercises, you are exercising the brain too. This effectively boosts your brain’s memory, which is very beneficial as you increase in age.

Greater Flexibility

Another benefit of functional training is improved flexibility. Functional training implements exercises that boosts your body’s functional strength by increasing overall flexibility and coordination. As your range of motion improves, you will find everyday activities become easier.  

Improves Balance

Furthermore, functional training improves your balance and overall posture. Most functional training exercises are not stabilised and require you to recruit other small muscle groups to help support the larger ones. This helps prevent over training one muscle group and giving incorrect posture.

Lastly, it also reduces the risk of injury. By imitating everyday life movement patterns, your body will become more likely to be able to cope with daily stresses and reduce the risk of injury to your body.

Fish & Field biokinFunctional training exercise for men's health by Fish &Field Biokinetics in Bryanston, Sandton
Squat with a weighted shoulder press

Aquatic Therapy and Functional Training

Functional training can go a far way to relieve pain associated with chronic conditions. However, it is common for people suffering from arthritis or chronic pain to stay away from exercise due to the discomfort. This is not ideal, because the exercises used in functional training can help make daily tasks less painful and return a better quality of life. Combining aquatic therapy with functional training is an ideal way of starting to reap the benefits discussed.

The buoyancy provided by the water supports the weight of the patient. This decreases the amount of weight bearing which helps to reduces the force of stress placed on the joints. This aspect of aquatic therapy is especially useful for clients with arthritis, healing fractured bones, or who are overweight. By decreasing the amount of joint stress, this will help you to perform exercises much easier and with less pain.

The viscosity of water provides an excellent source of resistance, which is an important aspect of functional training. This type of resistance training can be a good introduction to an aquatic therapy exercise program. It builds muscle strength, even when no weights are included in the exercise. The combination of resistance coupled with the water’s buoyancy helps to strengthen muscle groups without the joint stress experienced with functional training practiced on land.

Conclusion

As we have illustrated, there are no excuses for starting with a functional training exercise routine at your earliest convenience. And the benefits are endless. With an emphasis on strength, respiratory and flexibility the benefits of functional training differ from other workouts in the way it targets your body. Functional training incorporates the best of each field of fitness and by taking into consideration the physical laws applied to daily body movements. It aims at boosting your health and general well-being. 

References

Amy Marturana Winderl, C. (2019, March 7). What Functional Training Is and Why It’s Important.
Retrieved from Self.
https://www.self.com/story/what-functional-training-is-why-its-important

FUNCTIONAL TRAINING: A DEFINITIVE GUIDE. (2020, January 7). Retrieved from Orbit Fitness.
https://www.orbitfitness.com.au/blog/functional-training-definitive-guide

Kruel, L. (2020). 8 HEALTH BENEFITS OF FUNCTIONAL TRAINING. Retrieved from Trust my Coach.
https://trustmycoach.com/functional-training/8-benefits-functional-training/

Laura Inverarity, D. (2020, May 20). The Benefits of Aquatic Therapy. Retrieved from Very Well Health.
https://www.verywellhealth.com/aquatic-therapy-2696592

Mars vs. Venus: The gender gap in health. (2019). Harvard Health Publishing.
https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/mars-vs-venus-the-gender-gap-in-health

Running and jogging – health benefits. (2013, July 13). Retrieved from Better Health Channel.
https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/running-and-jogging-health-benefits

The Importance of Men’s Health. (2014). NCHPAD Building Healthy Inclusive Communities.
https://intermountainhealthcare.org/blogs/topics/live-well/2018/06/men-and-exercise/

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