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Virtual programs have graduated from an added commodity to a necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic, as organizations everywhere have explored new options to keep members connected and healthy in their homes. One option that has proven particularly engaging is functional fitness.

“There’s something intangible that comes with functional fitness, and that’s the community it creates,” said Rosie Turner, the director of marketing and communications at the Harrisburg Area YMCA in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “I think that’s a big piece that’s missing from our lives right now.”

Stay at home orders have made social isolation a significant concern in many communities, and group classes, even in a virtual setting, can help combat feelings of loneliness. Therefore, “it’s important to come up with ways to give people that sense of community at home,” according to Turner.

However, like most workout classes, functional fitness programs usually require equipment that most participants wouldn’t have in their homes. Fortunately, a workout of functional movements lends itself to outside-the-box thinking.

“To translate functional fitness into the home environment, we have to think of creative ways for people to have resistance,” said Turner. “Have a contest where everybody shows what their five-pound thing is, and you never know, somebody might lift up their cat. Or what’s the funniest thing you can find to make into a jump rope? Make it fun.”

It’s also important to make workouts accessible for members who can’t make specific class times. “You can pre-record workouts and post them to a YouTube page, or send out daily emails with links to programs from Les Mills, Matrix or TRX,” suggested Turner.

Consistent live functional fitness classes are another way community rec organizations can help  members maintain good mental and emotional health, through giving them a sense of community and keeping them active.

“Physical fitness is a part of mental health,” said Turner. “And during this time, specifically, where people are by themselves or have seen the same two faces the last two months, it’s really important to find connecting points and to get a workout in. People need to stay active, and it’s going to be easier to transition back into the real world if they keep themselves moving.”

So as you’re exploring new programming options, functional fitness is worth considering. You can get creative with the formats, engage with your members, and help keep them healthy until they can come take a class in person.

“As we’re starting to open back up, we’re able to dig in and get people moving, get them ready to come back to the gym, and give them the fitness experiences they really need,” said Turner.

Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former editor of Community Rec Magazine.

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