I get asked a lot about functional fitness. What does it mean? How does it impact Quality of Life? What is Quality of Life? To me, Quality of Life, means the ability and energy you have available to do the things you love to do with the people you love. Quality of life is not guaranteed. It is not a status that you unlock or a level you achieve. Quality of Life like “health” is a continuum. It fluctuates from day to day. And each of us has a different default level from which we fluctuate. Many things impact our quality of life including genetics, family, socioeconomic status, age, gender and fitness level and social network. And only some of our quality of life is under our control. We can, if we wish, work to improve the things over which we have some control. Fitness level is one of those things. And functional fitness is the process of using exercise to increase our abilities to do things in our everyday lives.
This has come home to me in a very personal way as we engage in the “eternal, internal, house painting project”. I am not kidding you. This has taken a week longer than forever. There are days when I never want to look at a texture gun or a roller or a paintbrush EVER AGAIN. However, I can state in no uncertain terms, that this bloody, everlasting, wall pigmentation project would have never even gotten off the ground if I hadn’t worked over the years on my functional fitness. I primarily teach dance classes, but I do some yoga and resistance training and walking/running as well. And all of this has helped prepare me for the rigors of home remodeling. Whether it’s lifting one end of a 14-foot-long 2×12 board or rolling paint on to a ceiling or climbing a ladder or performing the equivalent of 100 squats in a two hour period in the course of spraying texture on the wall (using the power tool that my husband and I have affectionately dubbed the “poo flinger”) my more traditional fitness program has made this possible. I’ve increased my aerobic endurance, upper body strength, flexibility, balance and sheer bloody-mindedness so that I can do this painting stuff with my hubby for approximately eleventy billion hours per day. I even have the strength (in theory) to bludgeon him to death with a HVLP sprayer.
Which makes me wonder, “Is this a good thing?” Why don’t we just hire somebody to do this? Hey, HUSBAND! Why don’t we just HIRE SOMEBODY TO DO THIS? I guess the main reason is that my husband really loves to do this kind of thing, and he wants us to do it together. And even if I don’t love painting quite as much as he does, I do love him. And I am deeply grateful that I currently have the strength to do that.
Does that mean everybody has to exercise this way? Does that mean everybody is even capable of getting to the point they can exercise this way? Of course not! Everybody is in a different place on their fitness continuum and everybody has different priorities for how they fit exercise into their lives. There is no moral imperative to work out or to ever wield a painting implement. But I will say that exercise helps move you towards a point on the Quality of Life continuum which may give you more energy and more choices about how to spend that energy. And that my friends is why I exercise. Oh, and of course, because it’s fun. Well except maybe the painting part.
Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)
P.S. ‘m SUPER excited to announce that after months of planning, Courtney Marshall, Candice Casas, Ragen Chastain and I are launching the call for proposals for a new anthology about fat people in the fitness/exercise/athletics/dance world. We plan to include first person stories, interviews, academic pieces, poetry, and art. You can get all the information (including about how to submit a proposal) at www.fatfitnessanthology.com Let me know if you have any questions, deadline for proposals is July 15!
Hi Patsy, I am so sorry that my post left you feeling sad or guilty. Believe me, that wasn’t what I intended, but I now see how it could have been improved a lot. I so agree that we are all at different starting places. And that exercise can help you move towards a place on the continuum or it can help you stay at the same place on the continuum or it can simply help you move along the continuum a little more slowly. Fitness is not a measure of worthiness or a guarantee of anything. And so much of our lives is out of our control (even the things we reassure ourselves we can control because the idea of a lack of control frankly scares the cacky out of us.)
And let me say right now, that I think painting is way easier than caring for children. I don’t have any of my own, but I’ve taught kids and cared for kids and it is some of the most demanding work I have ever done.
And thank you for the wake up call. Thank you for the reminder. In so many ways, I have it so very, very easy. And I forget that way too often. I will try to do better. Love, Jeanette
Good luck finishing your project. I would like to say that sometimes even people who exercise a lot cannot do all you are doing. I have cerebral palsy (since birth) & now arthritis. I will be 66 in September. I have exercised all my life, including many years when I exercised as much as 4 hours per day. I have done aerobics, lifted weights, ridden a stationary bike, then a thing called a cardioglide, done thousands of crunches, &, always, always, walked. I probably have walked close to 70,000 miles in my life & climbed tens of thousands of stairs. Now I walk between 45-90 minutes per day, need to avoid stairs as much as possible because my knees & ankles wobble & threaten to buckle & my always poor balance is getting worse with age. I have done thousands of kegels, but I have had increasing incontinence issues since childhood & wear disposable underwear. I do cook, do regular housework, shop, I raised two sons & am helping to raise a granddaughter, as well as caring for other people’s children a lot over the years. However, I could not do the painting, home renovation, etc., I cannot do a lot of heavy duty, intense housecleaning. I expect you would agree that I have exercised enough & still do exercise enough to have ‘functional fitness.” However, there is a huge difference between my ‘functional fitness’ & yours, as I expect there is between yours & LeBron James’s. I want to go out in the fresh air, I want to be as independent as I can be for as long as I can be, & I try to concentrate on being active enough to get whatever health benefits there are from regular exercise.
I am looking forward to reading the book, btw, when it is done. However, I have to admit that sometimes when I read the posts of other fat people who exercise, I feel as if I can never measure up, or be fit enough, or whatever. People do not have to choose to exercise, they do not have to make fitness a priority, as I have seen so many people like you & Ragen write. However, for some of us, even choosing to exercise & be active for 60 years of more or choosing to make fitness a priority, as I have most of my life, does not guarantee a high level of fitness. I applaud your ability to do all you are doing, even as I sit here sometimes feeling a bit guilty because it takes a lot out of me to try to wash woodwork.