Staying active as a form of medicine
Exercise as medicine has become less of a trend and more of a way of life after two years of COVID-19 and all the health and lifestyle challenges that came with it. Living actively has been one tool that many people have relied on to maintain a healthy mind, body and spirit throughout global lockdowns that triggered both mental and physical struggles. Working out helped us cope with what had become an unpredictably new normal. It gave us the consistency we craved, entrenching our lives into a routine that was within our control - while ensuring that our bodies and immune systems were strong enough to fight off whatever may come our way.
As we settle into 2022, this habit will continue to form part of many people’s new normal. Knowing that by keeping our bodies strong and healthy, we can future-proof our health in the long term. This is all about a mindset change that prioritises preventing disease by being intentional when it comes to making lifestyle choices that could directly impact our overall health and wellbeing. This year may also see more inter-industry collaborations between health care providers (including mental health specialists) and fitness professionals, and will likely also see the start of a more well-rounded approach to enabling people to improve their outer and inner (mental) fitness.
Functional fitness training improved daily movements
The need for functional fitness was triggered by the fact that many people have either been forced to have limited activity due to working from home or as a result of strict lockdowns that encourage staying home more often. So we are not moving about as much as we used to, with those working from home finding themselves spending even more time sitting at their desks than before (1). According to some studies, this shift is having an enormous impact on our bodies - resulting in people’s health deteriorating while making it harder for some to manage basic tasks because they simply don’t use and strengthen their muscles as much as the body needs to be able to function well.
Some studies even suggest that many people spend too much of their time in front of their screen during work and leisure time (1). This is why functional fitness has become essential, but what exactly is it?
Functional fitness is also known as functional movement - it is said to be a type of training that prepares and strengthens the body for daily activities and movement. Its role is to prevent possible injuries, improve athletic performance and aid in other daily fitness tasks (1) - like bending to pick up things, walking, twisting, lifting, loading, pushing, pulling, squatting and hauling. Most functional fitness exercises contain multi-joint movement patterns that involve your knees, hips, spine, elbows, wrists, and shoulders, which all build strength and improve your range of motion. According to experts, functional training prioritizes muscle movement over appearance. It is strength training that aligns with physical activities that we do daily, so things like bench pressing or targeted training that aim to build muscle mass like leg day wouldn’t fall under this category. Those exercises do not necessarily aid the body to perform everyday movements, especially for most people who aren’t gym fanatics. It is important to understand that functional training doesn't focus on isolating one muscle group over others in any given session because that’s not how our bodies naturally move as we go about our activities. For instance, if you’re bending over to pick up a heavy box on the ground, you not only use your biceps to pick it up, but also your legs need to go into a squat while your back and shoulders hunch over. Functional training ensures that those muscles are strong enough for you to complete the task without injuring your back, arm muscles or knees.
Why Should I Try Functional Fitness Training?
- Increased balance and stability
- Increased strength
- Decreased risk of injury
Mindfulness training to live intentionally
Covid taught us about the value of exercising both our minds and bodies to maintain a balanced life. As people now have more responsibilities to juggle in-between work, life and our health, finding moments to sit with ourselves and decompress has become essential. Activities like yoga and mindful walking have helped us do this because they not only strengthen the body but also have a meditative effect on the mind. They’ve enabled people to be more present and live mindfully, despite the uncertainty of the future. The past 2 years of living with COVID-19 has seen yoga, meditation and mindfulness programs surge in popularity, as well as increased growth in sales of yoga equipment and classes.
What are the benefits of training mindfully?
- Improve physical health, with some research connecting mindfulness with increased cardiovascular health.
- Subjects who practised mindfulness had lower body mass index and fasting glucose (blood sugar) levels.
- Research published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine adds that mindful fitness can improve breathing, heart rate, and parasympathetic activity.
Mindfulness in general has empowered those who use it as a tool to live more intentionally. A reminder that physical health is connected to mental health. Being healthy isn’t just an aesthetic, especially in a world where people are struggling with mental health challenges like depression and anxiety. Training more mindfully can help you connect to yourself again, so that you’re not just going through the motions. It empowers people to live in sync with their bodies so that they can hear and better respond to what their bodies need.
Micro workouts are here to stay!
This trend has been picking up since 2021 - with working from home culture continuing into 2022, keeping to those 1-hour brutal workout sessions at the gym has become less appealing. This is especially true for parents and working adults with packed schedules who simply cannot afford the luxury of an hour or more of training at any given time.
More and more people are opting for shorter 10-15 minute training circuits throughout the day that allows them to do different types of workouts. For instance, they have the option to have a short run in the morning, followed by a quick cardio session at midday and then yoga in the evening to wind down the day. So the saying ‘every little bit counts’ definitely applies to these styles of workouts as well.
Although this trend has been coming up in the past few years, it's also now a way for people to take breaks away from their desks and screen-time throughout the day for a moment of intentional ‘me-time’.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association, “to improve health and reduce risk of chronic disease individuals should aim to engage in a total of at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week”. This objective can be achieved by doing 30-minute sessions of activity five days a week or it may be accumulated with mini-workouts throughout the day that are at least 10 minutes in duration. These shorter bouts of training may also appeal to those who get bored easily, hence doing a diverse set of shorter workouts can help keep you interested and motivated to stay active without losing any of the benefits that come with exercising.
Micro training is also the best approach to help tackle the increased rates of inactivity due to limited social life, shifting schedules and sedentary lifestyles caused by COVID-19 restrictions. These short, high-intensity workouts are a great way to disrupt your daily routine and combat the health hazard of prolonged stillness.
Do-it-yourself workout apps for convenience
When gyms and other training facilities were shut down due to lockdowns, we saw an increasing amount of people turn to virtual training options such as Youtube workouts from their favourite fitness influencers, live gym sessions with personal trainers and other digital fitness applications. This provided many people with the option to keep fit from the safety of their homes.
Workout apps have become especially popular amongst those who prefer the convenience of training on their own time while having the option to personalise their training regimen based on what their goals are. Apps give people the flexibility to train at their own time along with the technology to track their progress on a platform that offers workouts depending on their flexibility levels and a variation of workout routines, especially for those who get bored easily.
It seems that this trend will only get stronger, although this year might see more people taking a hybrid approach. Since gyms and training facilities are back to functioning at full capacity, people are more likely to create schedules that allow for them to work out from the gym on certain days while using apps for all the other times that they want to work out in a safer environment.
But, when it’s all said and done, we advise that you try out all of the different options and see what works best for you depending on your goals for 2022. For instance, a trend like micro training might work for some, but not for others. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to fitness. We recommend that you take an approach that empowers you to live a well-rounded life that shows care for both your mental and physical health. For those of you who intend to start a new fitness journey this year but are unsure about where to begin, check out DNAfit genetic tests to get started. We offer tools that can enable you to kick off a journey that is personalised to your genetic predisposition. For example, we can help you uncover whether your body would respond better to strength training versus endurance training. Learning more about your own genetics and your body is important to help you make sure you reach your fitness goals in 2022!