The term functional is commonly used these days in fitness circles and even nutrition programs. The idea behind the movement is getting back to “normal” human movement patterns that we were made to do or eating foods that our bodies were created to handle. I appreciate this approach because of its common sense look at reality and the ease in which we can see where human performance has gone off the rails in light of this framework of functionality.
Those who propose this approach rely heavily on science and anthropology to try and re-discover how our bodies were meant to move or the caloric and macronutrient makeup that our diets were “programmed” to handle.
In the fitness industry, practitioners of functional fitness tout that they have found the “holy grail” of how to become truly fit and cast off the oppressive old fitness axioms that were centered on concentration movements like curls. The functional fitness world tries to use science to describe how our joints and muscles work in concert to exert force on objects or create power. They use anthropology to extrapolate how humans who lived long before mass transit and the internet used the joint and muscle structures in our bodies to live and thrive together.
For example, “ancestral health” proponents point out that we are bi-pedal so we were created to walk, run and squat. Based on these simple and logical inferences we can easily see that sitting for 8-10 hours necessarily inhibits our natural ability to move. Proper mechanics and exercises have been developed, packaged and sold as functional because they logically seem to be derived from our lineage of ancestors who ran to hunt for food, climbed things to get to safety and picked large objects off of the ground to build shelter for their tribe.
The nutrition industry has also popularized this framework for understanding what to eat. The ancestral health movement is based on helping us unpack what the cave man’s body needed were to survive and then extrapolates that image to show us how far off of the map we have found ourselves by consuming super-sized meals from fast food joints.
As I mentioned, I appreciate this approach in many respects because it is simple to understand and shows us where we are no longer living as we were created with regard to our physical bodies. However, I look at the functional health movement a little differently and appreciate it because I think it is a step in the right direction in discovering who God is. If through science and anthropology we can find out how our human bodies were designed to move and digest food, it begs the question who designed it?
If we are seeking truth in all honesty then we can begin to see the integral link between theology, or the study of God, and science. Together they help to shed light on how we were created and how far we have fallen from the Creator’s original design. It is amusing that the majority of scientists in the field of ancestral health completely and adamantly deny such a link and ascribe to an atheist world view, but in turn have made science their religion.
This approach is not new but can be dangerous. When you leave God out of the equation for understanding why we were created and how we are supposed to work, you always end up frustrated in trying to understand suffering and will eventually diminish the human person to merely an object made solely of molecules and unchecked chemical reactions.
There is another way
By using the functional fitness model and the ancestral health framework to show us how our bodies were created to move and what we were meant to eat, science can add value in helping us to understand who created us in the first place. Although modern science would have you believe that theology is opposed to scientific discovery, it was Christians who propelled science to where it is today and the creation of the University where study and deeper thinking about the created world were meant to help us explain God’s creation and encounter Him.
When taking into account the whole person we can look to God for how we were originally designed, which is to be loved by Him and in turn become a total gift of self to others. By pressing into this original design to see how He created proper human function, it becomes easy to see how sin like pride, lust or greed have de-railed us from living as He intended. We are not only broken physically through the effects of sin, but interiorly as well.
God, in His great love for us, gave us the solution to this function problem. He sent Jesus Christ to redeem us and show us why we were made and fully reveal the greatness which we are all capable of. In order to discover true functional health, it requires a decision…we must recognize that we are broken and in need of the True Physician.
“Put on the Armor of God” (Eph 6:11)