Putting ‘fun’ in functional training

Researchers have been analysing an increasingly popular workout technique and have found it reduces blood pressure and cheers people up.

Associate Professor Anthony Leicht of James Cook University’s College of Healthcare Sciences was part of an international team that studied a group of people who took part in ‘functional training’ (FT).

“Fitness studios are increasingly adding classes that help people get stronger in their everyday movement (functional) patterns. FT incorporates functional and multimodal movements designed to improve physical fitness and performance,” said Dr Leicht.

He said several studies have shown positive effects of FT on stability, motor coordination and muscular endurance in different populations with low injury rate.

“A lot is still unknown about the effects of a FT workout on the body and mind, so we measured the psychophysiological (blood pressure and affective emotional) responses of a group of volunteers as they were put through their paces,” said Dr Leicht.

The FT bout consisted of four phases – warm-up, two phases a neuromuscular phase and a phase with high-intensity interval training.

During each phase researchers took ratings of perceived exertion and affective responses. Blood pressure was measured before and up to 60-minutes after the experimental sessions.

“The results showed a single FT session produced acute positive feelings, moderate arousal and rating of perceived exertion and a significant, post-exercise reduction in blood pressure that lasted for at least 60 minutes,” said Dr Leicht.

He said it was important that the workout left the volunteers feeling good.

“The physiological benefits of exercise over time have been well documented, but high intensity exercises have been associated with unpleasant feelings, which may increase dropout rates.

“Given the inclusion of high intensity activities within FT, it was possible that FT may also induce negative emotional feelings that may deter its use, but it has not proved the case in this study,” said Dr Leicht.

He said one limitation of the study was that the volunteers were already fit, and people who were less fit may regard FT less favourably.

“But in this group, at least, positive mood and cardiovascular effects confirm FT as a potentially beneficial exercise that people will continue to turn up for and which will help maintain their heart’s health,” said Dr Leicht.

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