How Can Improved Mobility, Flexibility and Physical Fitness Positively Affect Your Health?
You’ll often hear physiotherapists and exercise physiologists recommend mobility training, flexibility training or functional movement training, because of the numerous related health benefits:
- Increased and maintained flexibility and mobility.
- Improved capacity for injury.
- Improved, pain-free, functional movement.
However, our physical fitness isn’t only determined by our level of aerobic fitness, strength, or weight we can lift or press. Nor are aerobic activity or strength training the only forms of exercise that are required to ensure our bodies is are performing at their optimum level.
Flexibility and mobility are also crucial elements in protecting our bodies from injury and pain, and there are good reasons for incorporating mobility training into our regular exercise routines or for making mobility training the first thing we think about when beginning or re-starting an exercise routine.
Why Are Flexibility and Mobility Important for Health and Wellbeing?
When looking to improve our physical fitness, we don’t necessarily consider how large a part our mobility plays in our overall health and wellbeing. Nor do we often think about the need to increase or maintain our flexibility.
Our flexibility and mobility – that is, the length to which our muscles can comfortably stretch and the range of motion that our joints and muscles are capable of – are important to our general health and wellbeing because they directly impact how well we are able to move and perform our normal, regular daily activities.
Uneven Muscle Development
Our muscles can develop unevenly because we perform some movements more frequently than others, causing some to shorten and tighten and others to lengthen and slacken. Disproportionally short, tight muscles can pull our joints out of proper alignment, resulting in uneven joint wear and dysfunctional movement, and potentially causing issues like arthritis, lower back pain, kyphosis (hunching of the back) and anterior pelvic tilt (an abnormal pelvis position that can affect posture and cause pain).
When this occurs, we will often have difficulty activating other muscle groups, which puts further stress on the already tight muscles and means we are more likely to move differently, to compensate for weak muscles and avoid painful movement.
Re-Learning How to Move Well
In contrast, when we are able to move well, we are better able to distribute stress and tension throughout the body and alleviate pressure on important areas, like hips, knees and lower back. Actively working on improving or maintaining our mobility and flexibility through functional movement enables us to ensure our bodies are in the safest, most effective position to make proper use of our muscles and joints.
This can help to lower our risk of injury and reduce the pain that can be caused by incorrect or repetitive movements, extended periods of inactivity or retaining the one position for a long time.
What Is Functional Movement?
The term “functional movement” encompasses the range of muscle and joint movements necessary to perform the activities required in our daily lives. Good functional movement refers to our body’s ability to undertake movement using proper muscle and joint function, so that we can mobilise effortlessly and go about our day pain-free and without risking injury.
The physiotherapists and exercise science specialists at Transcend Health analyse each client’s biomechanics (how and why our body moves in the way it does) in order to gain an understanding of the client’s anatomy, neuromuscular skills and physiological capacity. In doing so they build a picture of the person’s unique movement technique and identify any anatomical or functional abnormalities that are impacting on their body’s ability to engage in proper muscle and joint function.
Identifying abnormalities and incorrect techniques that impact a person’s biomechanics enables the team at Transcend Health to work with the person to increase the efficiency and effectiveness their movement technique.
What Is Mobility Training?
Mobility training, also known as functional training, refers to a training program designed to increase and maintain flexibility and mobility, in order to enable easier and more efficient functional movement. Improving the body’s functional movement can help to reduce muscular and joint pain, decrease the risk of injury and remain physically independent.
The specific exercises recommended for inclusion in an individual’s mobility training program depend on each person’s biomechanics and any identified abnormalities of movement. However, in general, mobility training incorporates a range of exercises to increase a person’s core strength and core endurance, stability and range of motion (ROM), including:
- Full body exercise
Full-body exercises are important for safeguarding our mobility because they directly contribute to improving our ability to engage in functional movement. Full body exercise includes:
- Mixing up workouts
- Multi muscle-strengthening exercises that use a variety of muscle groups at one time, such as:
- Climbing stairs
Stretching is extremely important to increase muscle pliability, improve joint mobility and reduction of injury. It includes:
- Dynamic stretching (stretching while moving)
- Static stretching
- Stretching against resistance
- Yoga and Pilates.
While research has shown that core-strengthening exercises and passive range of motion (ROM) exercises can improve a person’s core endurance and/or range of motion, they don’t automatically improve dynamic functional movement. This is because when we actively engage our muscles to perform the functional movements required by our daily activities such as sitting, standing, walking, reaching or lifting, we tend to use habitual or default motor patterns.
Default patterns of movement are learned and reinforced over the course of our lifetime and aren’t easily changed simply by improving our ROM through passive exercises. Rather, to improve our biomechanics, build functional strength and correct our habitual methods of functional movement, we need to practice the correct patterns of movement.
Deliberately practicing desired patterns of movement helps to repattern our habitual functional movements, so the correct movement pattern becomes our default. Mobility training under the direction and supervision of a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist is one of the best ways to achieve this.
When you undertake a course of mobility training, all the elements we have mentioned above will work together to improve your overall flexibility and mobility, as well as your capacity for injury and functional movement.
Improve Your Mobility and Flexibility with Individualised Mobility Training Programs at Transcend Health
Transcend Health offers a range of services to help individuals improve their mobility, including one-on-one sessions with physiotherapists and accredited exercise physiologists, small group movement classes and exercise physiology classes, and yoga classes.
If you would like to find out more, or get involved further, contact Transcend Health on 02 4961 3399 or fill out our contact form to have one of our friendly staff contact you. Alternatively, use our online booking system to make an appointment today.