In contrast to the “environmental approach” to childhood obesity prevention, the “functional approach” contends that, given access to the right information and experience, the individual not only can, but indeed must become an active, self governing agent – a molder/shaper of his/her own life.
With that said, a functional approach to childhood obesity prevention begins with two questions. First, physically speaking what can you do right now? For example, how fast or far can you run or walk? How high or long can you jump? How many unassisted pull ups, bar dips, or hand stand push ups can you do right now? With that information in hand you have a baseline, a tangible starting point on which to build.
Second, how can we improve on any one of these “functional performances” in such a way that your motivational flame grows brighter and more intense, week after week, month after month, all year long…instead of a fading ember?
If you’re athletically inclined you might say, “I can run around the block in 8 minutes.” Or “I can do five pull ups.” Or “I can do eight dips on the parallel bar.” Or “I can do three hand-stand push ups.”
On the other hand, if you’re athletically disinclined and you carry too much excess body weight you might say, “I can do five leg assisted pull ups.” Or “I can do five leg assisted dips.” Or “I can walk around the block in 15 minutes.”
A Direct Relationship
Regardless, in every one of these instances there’s a direct relationship between functional performance change and body composition change. For example, use any one of these examples and notice what happens when you gain 10 pounds of fat. In each and every instance fat gain automatically reduces functional performance. And in each and every instance, fat loss automatically improves functional performance.
On the other side of the coin, use any one of these examples and notice what happens when you gain 5 lbs of muscle mass (a much more challenging task). In each and every instance muscle mass gain automatically improves functional performance. In each and every instance muscle mass loss automatically reduces functional performance.
In short, body composition changes are direct indicators of functional performance changes. And functional performance changes are direct indicators of body composition changes. They are effectively mirror images of each other. When one improves the other improves. When one deteriorates the other automatically follows suit.
From a Physiological Perspective
From a physiological perspective then, it’s all very simple and straight forward. You don’t have to be a mathematician, a scientist, and exercise physiologist, an MD, or even an adult to understand a functional approach to childhood obesity. There are no fancy formulas, no interpretations, no graphs and no pie charts needed to explain functional improvement or deterioration. Improve your performance and you win.
From a Motivational Perspective
From a motivational perspective it’s also very simple and straight forward. All kids want to be strong at everything. And when they get stronger (succeed) every week, in front of their friends, and they get high fives in the wake of each session, it doesn’t take very long before they’re begging the teacher for the next opportunity to do pull ups (leg assisted or conventional) or bar dips (leg assisted or conventional). Success breeds success, and a regular return on their investment of time and effort keeps them motivated and inspired to continue investing/persisting.
Winning With a Functional Approach
So this approach simply says improve your functional performance regularly, over time, and your body composition automatically improves. Improve week after week, month after month and kids are highly motivated to persist until they cross the goal line. That’s how you beat childhood obesity with a functional approach.