Body Parts or Whole Body?

Live Like You Can

By Janis McDonald

John McLeod

From the early days, fitness instructors have focused on working individual body parts. Bigger biceps, pumped up pectoral muscles, toned thighs or six-pack abs were the ultimate goals of most programs, unless the program was aimed at developing a body for a specific sport. Then the whole body would be trained at one time in order to improve the skills needed.
A fitness program designed to divide the body into parts, isolating each muscle, can indeed improve the strength of each muscle. Traditional strength training certainly will make the body stronger. So why and how did the shift to training the whole body at the same time become the trend today?
I believe it was the collision of the largest population to ever be over 55, with the population of adults over 85 growing by 400 percent by 2030 and the desire to avoid “aging” like their parents.
The numbers cried out for a shift in the fitness industry to better address the needs of the mature client who wants to age actively for the game of life. Just like sports training, training for life means using and strengthening the whole body at one time.
The fitness industry rose to the challenge by moving towards more functional type of training exercises that enhance the quality of life by building a unified body that works like a machine, all parts working at once. Since functional training entered the fitness industry almost 10 years ago, exercise has slowly shifted to mostly standing exercises using a multiple of joints, in all directions while focusing on the body’s stabilizers, hips, core, and scapula.
The mature active people of today have debunked myths of aging such as that sickness is part of growing older, it’s too late to improve the body, it’s in my genes, and growing weaker, losing muscle mass is inevitable.
A person’s chronological age is only a rough guideline to their functional age capabilities. Although functional capacity generally decreases with advancing age, the degree and rate of decline are highly variable. Therefore, an 80 year old may be able to out-perform someone 10-20 years younger.
As a trainer of mature clients, I adamantly know that aging can be slowed down and in some cases reversed by proper exercise to first strengthen tissues, then to develop power, balance, flexibility using the entire body as often as possible using as many joints as possible either to perform the move or to stabilize the body in as many directions as possible.
The body is like an orchestra; while each part is vital to the whole, each part must be trained to participate as a unit in order to make beautiful music.
The functionally fit body will take you where you want to go now. Train the whole body to work together to achieve “active aging.”
Janis McDonald, Functional Aging Trainer, Wellness Coach, Private Gym-152-0457

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