Fitness for Real Life

Dollarphotoclub_Squa285tBy Maryann Hammers

Is fitness measured by how many bicep curls you can do? Fitness experts say, “nope.”

Rock-hard abs and sculpted shoulders won’t necessarily help you dig a hole, climb a ladder, or pull weeds. That explains the popularity surge of “functional fitness” — one of this year’s top fitness trends. [1]

Real fitness is gauged by how well you function in real life — not how good you look at the gym. That’s why functional fitness involves everyday moves such as pulling, pushing, lifting, squatting, reaching, and bending.

“As women reach middle age, lifting the kids or picking up a suitcase aren’t as easy as they were. We can get injured [by] reaching into a cupboard or picking up a box,” says Los Angeles fitness instructor Jeanette DePatie, who goes by the nickname “The Fat Chick” and is author of The Fat Chick Works Out!

“Functional fitness helps prevent these injuries, so you can run after your kids, dance your butt off at your best friend’s wedding, and climb to the top of the scenic overlook at your next vacation without exhaustion or injury,” adds De Patie, who specializes in working with students of all ages, shapes, and fitness levels.

No fancy contraptions are needed — just the stairs, walls, and chairs in your own home. Check out DePatie’s video for tips on using common household items in your exercise program.

Here are three moves to get started.


Stand straight, feet shoulder-width apart. Hips, knees, and ankles should be aligned; head lifted tall. “You don’t want your upper body to be hunch downed or forward like a turtle,” warns DePatie.

Stretch your arms out in front of you, palms down. “Think ‘zombie,’” says DePatie.

Keeping head up and torso vertical, slowly bend your knees, move your hips back, and stick your butt out — as though you are about to sit in a chair. “Don’t let your knees cave inward,” she says.

If you need a little help, use a wall for support.

“Squats strengthen the core muscles, helping with balance and stability,” says DePatie. “A stronger core also protects the lower back while we sit, lift things, or bend over. “


Hold dumbbells in each hand, with the palms facing in. “If you don’t have dumbbells, use detergent bottles or cans of food,” says DePatie.

Keeping hands at your sides, face a wide step. Put one foot onto the step; then bring the other foot up to meet it. Then step down with one foot and bring the other down to meet it.

“This is great for the front of the thighs (quads) and the butt (glutes), so it’s terrific training for hiking, climbing, or running up stairs,” says DePatie.


Imagine a golf ball on the floor. Reach down to pick up the imaginary ball, and, at the same time, lift the opposite leg.

“When you reach forward with your arm, your opposite leg sticks out in the air behind you. So if your upper body flexes 90 degrees, your leg should lift 90 degrees off the ground,” says DePlatie. “Don’t lock the standing leg; rather, allow your knee to slightly bend. You can use a table or desk to support your other hand.”

This exercise is a great balance-builder and helps prevent falls, DePatie says.