As we learn more about how the body works, our eyes are opened to the millions of intricate systems that gracefully flow together so that we can move.
It’s in this place of increased knowledge and understanding that mobility is finally getting its day in the sun.
We begin our journey of understanding by acknowledging the difference between mobility and flexibility. From here, we recognize the need to incorporate them both into a holistic approach to health. So, let’s start at the beginning – what is mobility? How is it different from flexibility ? Why is mobility important? Who needs mobility? And finally, how can we incorporate it into our lives?
What is Mobility?
Mobility is the amount of motion available at a joint, or series of joints, and the ease with which the joint(s) can actively move through the range of motion (ROM). Mobility allows the body to get into the positions needed to move in all three planes of motion and perform any given motion – without sacrificing stability. That’s a mouthful, but let’s break it down to what this means to you.
Improving mobility creates opportunities for:
- Better sensory input and feedback to change and improve your body’s movement patterns.
- More efficient movement to enable you to do more work in less time (workload).
- Correct stimulus and overload to strengthen the body and challenge your energy systems for better conditioning.
- Increased stability and movement quality to make you more durable and resistant to injury.
How is Mobility Different from Flexibility?
Flexibility is the ability of muscles, ligaments, and tendons to allow movement about a joint or a sequence of joints. It refers to the ROM allowed by the soft tissue around a specific joint or series of related joint segments. This can be active or passive.
Mobility describes when muscle tone or surrounding tissue allows freedom and perception of movement involving a joint or series of joints. In this regard, mobility describes the relationship of flexibility to its role in movement and joint motion control.
Why is Mobility Important?
Simply put, mobility is required for efficient, quality movement. Certainly true for exercising, but also when you are mowing your lawn, playing with your kids, working in the garden, walking around the grocery store, working out at the gym, practicing your favorite sport, or any other myriad activities you may find yourself doing in the course of the day.
When you lack mobility, every day tasks may become difficult and injury could result. Unfortunately, for most of us, our lifestyle doesn’t lend itself to working on mobility.
For many of us, the reality is that we sit for the majority of our day versus standing and moving, thus influencing both the flexibility and mobility aspects of human movement. Hence the common saying, “Sitting is the new smoking.” Practicing daily unhealthy habits over time leads to chronic degenerative conditions and movement problems.
Here’s an average day: sit to eat breakfast, sit to drive to work or school, sit at a desk to work, sit to eat lunch, sit for more work, sit to drive home, go for a walk or do some kind of work out (hooray for not sitting!), sit to eat dinner, sit to watch tv. Then we go to bed only to wake the next day and repeat the cycle all over again.
You noticed that in the midst of our mostly sitting day, we did make an effort to take good care of ourselves by exercising after work. This is wonderful and deserves a pat on the back. However, that 30-60 minute exercise routine isn’t enough to undo all the problems created by sitting the majority of our day.
We have to consider that since most of us spend the majority of our time sitting, not only are we unable to get good blood flow, build muscle, or improve our cardiovascular health, but we are also typically not in good posture during these activities. If we could correct our posture (how we sit, stand, move, pick something up, transition from laying down to sitting to standing to walking), we could help ourselves out tremendously!
We’re not “bad” or doing something “wrong.” We just need to be aware of what we’re doing. We need to get up and move. We need to undo some of the tissue restrictions we’ve created over time. And we need to do it for more than just the hour at the gym or the hour at the physical or massage therapist.
We need a regular mobility practice.
Who Needs Mobility?
The simple answer is: Everyone!
The majority of the population in the US spends about 10-15 of our waking hours sitting. But perhaps you’re one of the minority for whom sitting too much isn’t your issue. Perhaps you have a very physically demanding job or are a competitive athlete. Unfortunately, repetitive motion can be just as problematic as sitting too much if the body is moving in an inefficient way.
For both the sitters and the movers, we must overcome the imbalance our lifestyles create. Both groups can develop tissue limitations which can cause decreased mobility in a variety of areas of the body.
Likewise, knowledgeable exercise enthusiasts are recognizing the need for muscle preparation and recovery. A mobility routine coupled with a good flexibility program complements your existing strength and stability program.
A Holistic Approach
As our knowledge of the vital aspects of mobility increases, our performance can increase, provided we focus on the overall health of our bodies and not just strengthening one area.
To get you started on your mobility routine, we’ve provided instructional videos for what we believe are the 9 Essential Releases to do with a MOBO MAX. Feel free to start with your main area of concern to find relief for any pain or decreased mobility, but don’t stop there. You’ll want to mobilize each of these key areas for maximum benefit.
You can find the 9 Essentials here.
What About You?
Do you have a mobility routine? What do you do for exercise prep and recovery? What do you do for tension relief? How do you undo the stress of the day – whether it’s overuse or underuse of your muscles? Which of the 9 Essentials are you going to try first?