WHAT IS MOBILITY?
“Mobility” is often a word thrown around in various ways by fitness professionals and therapists, slightly confusing the consumer. Some use the word to describe specific self-care exercises like foam rolling or dynamic stretches. Others, use it when talking about how much motion a specific joint or soft tissue has.
One of the more all-inclusive ways to use the word is to say that mobility is the overall range of motion a person has within their body. In other words, mobility describes how well a person can move.
Movement matters for life, and how well we can do it often determines our ability to perform specific tasks in an efficient, controlled & comfortable manner.
Mobility and flexibility are terms often used interchangeably, but they are very different. Mobility refers to the combination of active and passive motion available within your body, while flexibility refers just to passive motion available in your muscles.
Good active mobility relies on your joints and muscles to move and work well. Joints become stiff for various reasons, but typically, the connective tissues (capsule & ligaments) lose their elasticity. Muscles also feel tight for many reasons, including lack of flexibility, inflammation, and lack of neuromuscular control.
You need BOTH passive and active motion to have good mobility.
WHY DOES THIS ALL MATTER?
Mobility is the foundation of optimal movement and health. When your joints cannot move in a balanced way, the articular surfaces can become compromised, and soft tissues can get strained.
Our bones prefer to stay centralized in our joints, with the muscles on all sides working harmoniously. When the bones are not aligned well within the joint, bony surfaces can degrade (hello arthritis!), and some muscles will be overworked while others are underutilized.
It is critical to optimize our musculoskeletal system by working on muscle flexibility, soft-tissue motion, strength, and skill. When all of these factors are addressed, we gain mobility. Adequate mobility gives us the freedom of movement to live our lives in a more fun and fulfilling way.
Mobility & Injury Risk Reduction
If you do not have adequate mobility in specific joints of your body, nearby joints will work hard to compensate. This compensation often leads to stress and strain of various tissues because they are now doing the job for two or more body regions and moving into ranges that are not optimal for them. Over time, your body may begin to lose a sense of stability because those regions designed to keep you stable are too busy being mobile and taking up the slack for another part.
Injury is more likely to occur when your natural balance of mobility and stability is compromised. Being in tune with your body by understanding and addressing your mobility is critical for injury prevention.
Mobility & Strength
One thing to keep in mind is the importance of strength as a component of mobility. Many people hear “mobility” and only focus on passive release and elongation movements. Combining a healthy dose of passive soft tissue work AND optimal movement with strength work is necessary to move well for all that life offers.