Mobility and Flexibility – The Key To Healthy Aging.
I was torn with spending a whole month in the Be Healthy Enough Community focusing on mobility and flexibility. It’s not sexy. It’s not getting tank top arms or a flat belly. But it’s so much more important because mobility and flexibility are the key to healthy aging. Increased mobility and flexibility prevents you from getting injuries. It allows you to exercise more effectively. Best of all it helps keep us active and able to do all we love to do for many years to come.
Mobility and Flexibility go hand in hand in hand. Mobility is dynamic or active, where flexibility is passive. For example, flexibility is when you can pull your thumb back with your other hand, so it touches your wrist. In contrast, mobility is the ability to get your thumb to that exact same spot on your wrist without the help of the other hand.
Let’s first talk about mobility and why it’s important.
Mobility is foundational to physical health and the key to longevity. If you have poor mobility, you are not moving a joint through its full range of motion. This can create imbalances that will likely result in other parts of your body trying to compensate and increasing your chance of injury.
According to the American Council on Exercise, some joints (such as the lumbar spine/lower back) are meant to be stable, while other joints in the body (like the hips and shoulders) are meant to be more mobile. If your hips aren’t mobile and you try to do an activity that calls for them to be, it might cause you to recruit muscles in your back to help! You know what that means…OUCH!
What causes our joints to become less mobile?
If it’s not an injury then it’s basically lack of movement. When we spend too much time in stagnation (like sitting behind a desk for eight hours a day, five days a week) the connective tissues become short and tight. This connective tissue is called fascia. Fascia is like the saran wrap that encases your muscles. When it’s not treated nicely it gets “stuck” which can leave you feeling stiff or even in pain.
We depend on our mobility literally all the time. When we’re taking a walk, hiking, doing a HIIT workout, in the garden, or if we take an accidental fall, and reach out to brace ourselves. Mobility keeps us healthy and injury free..
Are you mobile enough to do all you want to do in life?
Try these 5 tests:
Now Let’s talk about Flexibility.
“Mobility” and “flexibility” are often used interchangeably but are not the same. With healthy mobility, you can move your arm forward, backward, side-to-side, and in circles. On the other hand, flexibility is the ability of a muscle to stretch – which is what allows you to move your arm. But you don’t have to be a “super bendy” person to be healthy enough to do all you want to do in life. Yes, I am super impressed with people that can touch their head to their legs when doing a hamstring stretch but flexibility without strength can do more harm than good. You do need some measure of flexibility to have good mobility. But you also need stability and strength.
Constant overstretching without incorporating strength-building can cause the ligaments and joints to stretch without properly preparing tissue fibers. Imagine taking a rubber band and constantly pulling, pulling, pulling. The band will become so long and loose and may snap even with minor movement.
How to improve your mobility and flexibility?
When it comes to training for mobility you should always start wherever you are. Please don’t try to compare yourself or compete with that person next to you in your yoga or fitness class. And definitely listen to your body and remember: one of the main purposes of improving your mobility is to keep you injury free, not cause one. Talk to your doctor if ANYTHING feels very painful. You may have an injury that you don’t know about..
To help, I’ve created four easy 5 Minute Mobility routines on my YouTube Channel and if you’re looking for full length mobility workouts check out The Be Healthy Enough Digital Fitness Studio. Here is one I just recently released. 30 Minute Full Body Mobility Workout. You can always try it FREE for 7 Days.
Bottom LINE – KEEP MOVING!
You don’t have to join my online fitness studio but you do need to exercise with the purposed of keeping your body healthy. This means strength training, cardio, core work, posture, balance and just moving more throughout your day. I know it sounds like a lot but it’s not. A good workout can contain all of these and can be done in jus 30 minutes 3 times a week. The other days you get up and move every hour, take nice walks, do house work, gardening, playing with your grandkids…just move.
Mobility is the key to longevity.