What is mobility?
Mobility is simply a person’s ability to move. In professional ‘terms’, it is described as how well we can move our bodies (joints and muscles) freely through their full range of motion.
A person with good mobility can move into and out of challenging positions better than someone with poor mobility.
Why is mobility important to us?
As humans, we are born to move. Our bodies and brains need movement to function optimally. It is a natural state of being for us.
If you have any children in your life, be it your own or nieces and nephews, you might have noticed how well they move and how active they are. Nobody teaches children how to squat or bend; they just do it as part of their everyday life. They are all the evidence we need to understand we are all born with the ability to move well; unless we enter this world with a disability.
Poor mobility needs to be avoided because it leads to acute injuries from falls and trips and chronic ones such as neck pain, back pain and knee problems. It can also lead to lower brain function and poor energy levels.
So, what causes a lack of mobility?
It starts at school before we enter the workforce, hunched over a desk and slumped on the sofa after a hard day of ‘adulting’. We sit too much, and we stop moving as much. Our brains forget how to move into certain positions, and the neural pathways become less well oiled.
The phrase ‘use it or lose it‘ has never applied to anything as much as it does to mobility.
The good news
If you have had it once, you can get mobility back. It takes a little work, like anything physical always does, but it will come back, and it certainly doesn’t require a complex approach.
How to improve your mobility?
Exercise professionals categorise human movements into specific groups: Squat, Lunge, Hinge, Push, Pull, Rotate and Gait (crawl, walk, run etc.).
If you can perform all these movements with relative ease, you would be classified as having good mobility and on the right pathway.
Performing these movements daily at bodyweight would be a great start. Whenever looking to make changes to your body, it is essential to start slowly and try to be a little bit better than you were yesterday. If you currently do nothing, just 5 minutes a day of simple movement would be a massive change for you.
Try to avoid sitting for longer than 30 minutes whenever possible. Even a simple stand up, shake of the shoulders and reach up to the sky will significantly change your overall levels over time.
You can, of course, go deeper than this and start to stretch more. By targeting the joints instead of the muscles, you will increase your mobility. Hips, shoulders and the thoracic spine are the big three to start with.
Yoga movements are a great example of mobility exercises that have been around for centuries that are great for joint mobility. Active stretching, where you move into and out of a stretch position, is the best way. Try bending over to touch your toes slowly 10 times or twisting your upper body left and right for 30 seconds.
Remember, people with a good level of mobility are less likely to get injured and can move their bodies at higher intensities, use higher loads of resistance and perform more complex movements.
What does good mobility look like?
There is a reason why most world-class athletes start young; they have developed their skills on top of a high level of mobility. At the top of the mobility, there are disciplines such as Gymnastics, Olympic weightlifting and parkour?
Participants in these sports have spent ta large degree of their time developing better movement patterns (mobility) and good joint range. Otherwise, they would not have been able to perform these complex movements or, even worse, would have suffered injuries. The lesson, improved mobility will reduce the risk of injury so why not start today to incorporate mobility into your exercise routine.
Do I need to worry about mobility if I’m already strong and fit?
Here’s the beauty of mobility training, if you spend just 5-10 minutes a day moving through great ranges of movement, you are not only improving your ability to Squat, Hinge or Run well. You are significantly lowering your risk of injury. Better mobility leads to a more robust body. This allows for more intensity and volume to be included in a training plan.
What if I have an injury?
There will be some people reading this who might have an injury preventing them from moving into a good position; it is crucial to address this with an exercise professional or physiotherapist before starting a new routine. Once the injury recovers, it is time to start moving well and including regular mobility work into your health & fitness routine.
By Tom Eastham, Anytime Fitness Australia Fitness Educator. Tom has been involved in sport and fitness almost his whole life and takes pride in his recovery after every session training.