Dr. Frank Gaffney fuses family, fitness with functional exercise routines

A cardiologist at Oklahoma Heart Institute is spending his free time prepping his body for real-life movements with a specific exercise style. He says this kind of fitness could even help his patients who are in cardiac rehabilitation.

Frank Gaffney, M.D., is a noninvasive cardiologist who specializes in transesophageal echocardiography, nuclear cardiology and coronary angiography. When he isn’t with patients or reading lab results, Dr. Gaffney hits the gym with his family.

Recently, he’s found a type of exercise called functional fitness to be especially effective for his lifestyle. Functional fitness incorporates common, real-life movements like twisting, squatting, reaching, lifting, pushing and pulling to improve strength and reduce the likelihood of injuries.

“A lot of it has to do with rotational power, anti-rotational power, just things that mimic the motion of everyday life, but getting stronger in the endeavors that we do,” said Dr. Gaffney. “A lot of it is using your own weight. Doing burpees, doing push-ups, doing pull-ups. There are ways to mimic those motions to do exercise to be fit in your life.”   

Dr. Gaffney says this type of exercise can also have benefits for patients who are in cardiac rehabilitation. 

“One of the most important aspects of cardiac rehabilitation is teaching people how to exercise in their aerobic threshold, not their anaerobic threshold,” said Dr. Gaffney. “There’s a very clear line where you switch into anaerobic metabolism, and you don’t burn any fat. Your body switches to glucose, that’s good for performance. But if one of your goals is to try to lose weight while you’re exercising and make your muscles more efficient, you have to exercise at lower heart rates. And that is the same exact concept we try to teach people for cardiac rehab.”

Dr. Gaffney exercises with his wife and three daughters, all of whom are athletes. One is a swimmer, one is a soccer player and the other is a runner.

“It has always been part of our family tradition to be committed to athletics,” said Dr. Gaffney. “It’s something that we all enjoy, it’s a type of workout that we all enjoy. And we do it together.”

He says functional fitness is customizable and shouldn’t be intimidating to anyone looking to try it out.

“The best part about functional fitness is it shouldn’t be scary to anybody because it’s the stuff that we do every day,” said Dr. Gaffney. “It’s just taking the day-to-day things that we do and strengthening you to do the normal movements of life.”