Do you know the difference? You should because it could be the key to peak fitness and long-term health.
Mobility and flexibility are both essential to a healthy life. Without them, your body can’t move. Each is critical for good posture, a greater range of movement and helping to reduce your risk of injury – but they’re quite different. Here’s everything you need to know.
What’s an example of mobility versus flexibility?
Picture doing a tree pose. Flexibility will allow you to get your leg up into the pose, while mobility will let you hold the pose without using your hands to hold your leg in position, explains Ben.
Flexibility: What is it?
Flexibility is your body’s ability to take a joint through a passive range of motion without experiencing pain or discomfort, says osteopath and fitness expert Dr Lisa Gadd. Passive motion is when you do a movement that doesn’t require turning on your muscles; for example, easily touching your toes and holding it for 60 seconds.
Why it’s important
When you improve your flexibility, your joints move more effectively. For instance, if you’re working out but struggling with squats, then focusing on boosting your flexibility will help your hip flexors and allow for a deeper squat. The long-term outcome is less aches and pains and a more comfortable daily life.
Stretching is the best way to improve flexibility, especially when done post-exercise when muscles are warm, loose and not engaged (like they’d be during a workout), says personal trainer Ben Seymour from Recovery Lab. Plus, static stretching – which involves holding stretches for a period of time without movement – increases blood circulation to the brain and calms the nervous system, helping to ease your body into recovery.
Want to improve your flexibility?
This can be as simple as spending 10 minutes each day statically stretching the main muscle groups, says Dr Gadd. Here are her top five stretches.
- Hamstrings – Sit on the floor with one leg extended. Reach opposite hand to foot and hold for 60 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
- Glutes – Sitting on a chair, place one ankle on the opposite knee, gently lean forward and hold for 60 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
- Lower back – On the floor on all fours (knees and hands), shift your bum back onto your heels into a child’s pose and hold for 60 seconds.
- Chest stretch – Stand in a corner facing inward, make a W with your arms (arms down, palms against wall) and gently lean into corner. Hold for 60 seconds.
- Hip flexors – From a lunge position, left knee on floor, right foot up front, squeeze bum muscles and hold for 60 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Mobility: What Is It?
Mobility is a dynamic or active movement and also how your body moves through a range of motion, says Ben. It’s active because there’s muscle engagement; for example, rolling your spine slowly down to touch your toes and then rolling back up, explains Dr Gadd.
Why It’s Important
Mobility training teaches you how to activate the muscles in your body properly and move with control and power. As a result, you’ll be able to hold better form when you exercise, reducing the risk of aggravating day-to-day niggles that might occur due to bad form. The bottom line? If you want to live an injury-free and active life, then focus on improving your mobility.
Think about it like greasing your joints. If you want to enhance your mobility (on top of normal exercise), it’s most effective when done pre-workout and is a handy warm-up routine, too. Moving through your ranges of motion beforehand will also kick-start your nervous system and wake up your muscles and improve circulation and blood flow, thereby allowing your body to be prepped for what’s next.
Want to improve your mobility?
Add these two easy mobility exercises to your warm-up routine today.
- For hamstrings and hips – Kneel on the floor with knees hip-width apart. Step right foot forward so your right knee is over the right ankle and right thigh is level with floor. With hands on hips, shift your weight back as you lean from hips, allowing your right toes to come up. Return to start and repeat 10 times. Now switch sides.
- For upper back – This is great to do when sitting at a desk or if you’re on a device all day. From a sitting position, pop your right hand on your right knee and left hand flat on your left ear. From here, open up through your chest and then close up so both elbows touch. Repeat 10 times and then switch sides.
Courtesy of Prevention Australia.