Unlocking The Key To Health – Understanding Mobility

Expert guidance from Kieren Payne, founder and owner of Altern8 Training in Sydney’s north shore.

In the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle, we often hear about the importance of mobility, but what exactly does it mean, and why is it crucial for our well-being? I’d like to delve into the intricacies of mobility to provide a comprehensive understanding of its significance for people of all ages.

Defining Mobility:

Mobility, in essence, refers to the ability to move freely and easily through a full range of motion around a joint or series of joints. It is often confused with flexibility which solely focuses on the length of muscles and their ability to stretch whereas mobility encompasses a broader spectrum, including the coordination, strength and stability required for movement

Why Mobility Matters:

Mobility is fundamental for performing daily activities with ease and efficiency as well as increases injury prevention which is key to keeping momentum. Whether it’s bending to tie your shoes, reaching for an item on a high shelf, or participating in recreational sports, adequate mobility ensures that our bodies can move without restriction or discomfort. Imagine trying to pick up your child or grandchild without the ability to bend or twist comfortably—mobility is the key to maintaining independence and enjoying life’s moments to the fullest. Additionally, maintaining optimal mobility can help prevent injuries by reducing the strain placed on muscles and joints during physical activities. When our muscles and joints are more flexible and adaptable, this reduces the strain and stress they experience during movement. This lowers the risk of injuries such as muscle strains, ligament sprains, or joint pain that can occur when our bodies are not able to move as freely as they should. So, by prioritizing mobility, we can help safeguard ourselves against these types of injuries and stay active and healthy for longer.

Importance Across Age Groups:

Mobility plays a vital role at every stage of life. In children and adolescents, it supports healthy growth and development, enabling them to explore their physical capabilities and engage in various activities. For example, a child climbing a tree or swinging on a playground demonstrates the importance of mobility in fostering exploration and adventure. As we transition into adulthood, maintaining mobility is essential for preserving independence and enjoying life’s passions. For example, the most common reason for surfers to stop surfing as they age is “not being able to pop up” normally due to a lack of hip mobility. By integrating mobility work into your weekly routine you can keep doing the things you love! In older adults, it can help prevent falls and maintain overall vitality and independence, allowing them to continue enjoying their favourite past times and staying active within their communities.

Mobility and Everyday Life and in the Gym:

The benefits of mobility also influence our performance in everyday activities. Whether it’s lifting groceries, playing with children, or gardening, improved mobility enhances our efficiency and reduces the risk of strain or injury. Additionally, in the gym, having adequate mobility enables us to maintain proper form and technique during exercises. This maximizes the effectiveness of workouts, leading to better results, while simultaneously minimizing the likelihood of injury. For example, consider two individuals performing squats: the first, with proper mobility in the hips, knees, and ankles, can execute the movement safely and effectively, achieving greater depth and stimulating muscle growth and strength. In contrast, the second individual, lacking mobility, may struggle to achieve the same depth and therefore growth stimulation, or risk injury by compensating with improper form.

Improving Mobility:

So, how can we enhance our mobility? Incorporating a combination of static and dynamic stretching exercises into our  weekly routine is key. Static stretching involves holding a position to elongate and relax muscles, while dynamic stretching involves controlled movements that mimic activities to increase range of motion and prepare the body for action. Both types of stretching offer unique benefits and can be integrated into warm-up or cool-down routines. Typically we use dynamic stretching before exercise or movement as some studies have shown this to be more effective in preparing our body and after exercise we use static stretching which can help relax muscles and improve flexibility, reducing post-workout soreness and promoting recovery.

Frequency and Examples:

Consistency is key when it comes to improving mobility. Aim to incorporate stretching exercises into your routine three to five times per week, focusing on major muscle groups and areas of tightness. The key is to add it onto a habit that is already part of your week. I like to do my stretching at night whilst I’m winding down and watching TV. Doesn’t have to be long, especially when you’re starting out, two stretches is a great start and can make all the difference in the world. To add to this article I have created a video giving you an example for a stretching program you can do in front of the TV but again everyone is different and it’s all about finding what works for you.

Other options may be incorporating mobility-focused activities such as yoga or Pilates into your weekly routine to further enhance flexibility, balance, and coordination.

In conclusion, mobility is the cornerstone of functional movement and overall well-being. By understanding its importance and incorporating targeted exercises into our weekly routine, we can unlock the full potential of our bodies, promoting health, vitality, and longevity.

Remember, a mobile body is a healthy body, so let’s keep moving!

Finding the Balance:

Quick post note- while mobility is essential, can we have too much of it? Surprisingly, yes. Excessive mobility, without sufficient stability and control, can lead to joint hypermobility, increasing the risk of injuries and instability. Therefore, it’s crucial to strike a balance between mobility and stability to support functional movement patterns effectively. Stay tuned for my next article about developing strength, stability and fitness at home on a budget!