Mobility. What it is and why we need it.
One of the biggest requests we get is to help people increase mobility. And rightly so. Mobility is an essential quality for us all to have so that we can stay physically active and therefore maintain health. But what is it and why should many of us prioritise it?
Mobility or Flexibility
The terms Mobility and Flexibility often get confused and easily so. Flexibility is your range of movement where as mobility is the quality & control of the range of movement. For example, two people perform a squat exercise. One person slowly and smoothly moves to the end range where as the second person awkwardly lowers, shifts sideways, the joints moan and eventually, this person bumps into the end range – the same end point as the first person. They both have the same flexibility, but the first person has better mobility. It’s the quality of the road, not the length of the road.
“Very few people need extreme flexibility, but we do need to be able to control what we’ve got”.
How do we get it and where does it go?
We all start off on the same path with mobility from the day we’re born through learning to roll, crawl, walk and then into unstructured play in our infant years. So why by mid adulthood do we see so many people struggling with very basic movement?
If we reflect upon our Western lifestyle, from our teenage years we are using less of our available mobility. Rather than chasing each other around and climbing trees, todays play tends to be more sedentary. Moving into adulthood and far more occupations are also more sedentary and we’re less physically active than we were a generation or two ago.
Add the odd injury or accident that we didn’t fully recover from and by the time we’re into our 40’s it’s common to see people unable to get up and down off the floor without a struggle, raise their arms above their head in full extension or even sit to stand without assistance. This all has a severe carryover to quality of life and indeed a persons belief of what there body is capable of.
Use it or Lose it
Lack of mobility is often associated with ageing when in fact, it can normally be maintained with regular practice. It’s more the lack of use, the odd injury and perhaps illness or surgery that have fast forwarded the decrease in mobility.
If we think of a cat’s behaviour, you’ll note that having slept for a prolonged period they’ll wake and then go through a functional mobility routine. This small routine, practiced a few times a day is enough to maintain great mobility. In fact research points to 15 minutes a day being sufficient to maintain mobility.
Flexibility of Mobility for Injury Management
Flexibility is intrinsically linked to injury prevention and management but, the science on this concept is poor. Many injuries are caused by having a lack of control, in particular near end range of movement so therefore gaining more movement doesn’t stack up. What does seem to work better is mobility and strengthening, especially slow controlled movement toward the end range of movement so that you have greater control under load. Whether that be playing your sport or doing the gardening. We therefore need to think of this in our exercise programming and prioritising slow controlled movement towards end range of movement rather than perhaps performing static stretching.
7 Point Plan to Develop Mobility
So often, mobility is lost due to lack or use or even fear of movement built up by previous injury or pain in that area. I use the below plan with my own clients so they can prove to their body that it can move once again. As your confidence improves so will your range of movement.
Follow the below 7 point plan to regain your lost mobility:
1. Identify Restrictions
Firstly, ask yourself, where, or in which joint, is my movement limited? Benchmark your movement, make a note of these or better still take a video with your camera. Let’s focus on those areas.
2. Find Movements You Can Do
Having found what you can’t do, let’s now solely focus on what YOU CAN DO. Find a few movements, working around the restricted area, that you can perform.
3. Avoid Pain
There’s no need to be aggressive. Some discomfort is OK but avoid pain and any movement that aggravates things the following day.
4. Daily Practice
Practice your chosen movements daily. Look to build these ranges of movement as you gain confidence. Start small. You can always add.
5. Functional Mobility
If you can make your exercise functional or, a movement that directly improves your quality of life. It could be reaching overhead or sitting down and standing up to a chair.
6. Groove the Movement
Keep the movement slow and controlled to that you get maximum ‘bang for your buck’ with every movement. The slower controlled movement will build strength and give you, and your body, reassurance.
7. Check Mobility Again
Revisit your previous restrictions and see how you’re progressing every week. Hopefully, you’ll notice a difference and be empowered to be more cat like.
Good luck and if we can be of any help please don’t hesitate to reach out.