In today’s times the amount of focus people are putting on overall health is overwhelming. Incorporating flexibility and mobility into daily life is key to unlocking a healthier and more agile body. These dynamic components not only enhance physical performance but also contribute to overall well-being. In this process the importance of flexibility and mobility are also now a key feature for every health enthusiast. People are slowly discovering the importance of flexibility and mobility with the help of various sources of information like health journals, yoga, zumba, pilates, etc.
We all have seen kids and young children move and hop around all day and keep turning and twisting their bodies in numerous patterns. But as we grow our movement gets restricted or we are not as flexible as we used to be in childhood. That means that flexibility and mobility are related to our joints and muscular system as we age.
So, before we move ahead let’s understand The Importance Of Flexibility?
Flexibility is the ability to move muscle and joints through full normal range of motion (ROM). Remember flexibility is a part of mobility.
Types of flexibility:
- Static: Ability to assume and maintain a position at full ROM around one joint. Static-active is unassisted; static-passive is assisted.
- Dynamic (functional): Ability to perform full ROM in the joints during movement For athletes, flexibility may increase performance in sports specific skills.
Factors affecting Flexibility
- Joint Structure: Dictates how much range of motion the joint has.
- Muscle Imbalance: Muscle strength and length imbalance will reduce flexibility due to unequal pulls from antagonistic muscles.
- Muscle Control: Lack of strength to control the working muscle in certain movements can limit flexibility.
- Age: Flexibility decreases with age due to changes in connective tissue.
- Gender: Women tend to be more flexible due to structural, hormonal, and anatomic factors.
- Connective Tissue: tendons, ligaments, fascia, and joint capsules affect flexibility. Therefore, full training and rehabilitation of connective tissue is important.
- Muscle Bulk: muscle hypertrophy can limit flexibility if muscle-building regimen does not have a corresponding stretching plan.
- Resistance Training: limiting full range of motion in resistance training can reduce flexibility.
- Activity Level: active people always tend to have more flexibility as compared to sedentary or less active ones.
Now time to understand the basics of Mobility
Mobility is the ability to move freely, without any inhibitions like stiffness or stress. In order to be fully mobile, your joints must be flexible, stable and strong enough to allow a full range of motion. Flexibility, stability and strength can be built up by looking after your body and performing regular stretches and exercises.
How to increase mobility as we age ?
Mobility exercises are the best way to improve mobility. It’s different from static stretching because you typically move during the exercise instead of holding a pose. Try some of these feel-good moves: Neck half circles, floor windmills for your thoracic spine, ankle circles, standing arm swings and shoulder pass throughs for your rotator cuffs, and hip circles and lying clam shells for your hips.
Benefits Of Flexibility and mobility
1. Increased range of motion:
Flexibility involves stretching your muscles, tendons and connective tissues. Doing so can improve your athletic performance. Lengthening your muscles, tendons and connective tissues can enhance your athletic performance. Not only that, but it can make movements easier throughout the day. You wouldn’t have a hard time sitting with your legs crossed or squatting.
2. Helps prevent injury:
Muscle injuries are not only an inconvenience but they can hold you up for days, keeping you from being your most productive and energetic self. However, when you try to enhance your flexibility and mobility, you can reduce your risk of joint stiffness, and muscle strains.
3. Helps with tightness:
Do you feel your muscles getting tighter by the day? Working on your flexibility can work wonders. It can provide you relief from tightness.
4. Better posture:
Struggling with a bad posture? Just so you know, your body language, including your posture, speaks a lot. A bad posture can leave a bad impression. However, improving flexibility can rectify posture imbalances, enhance your alignment and hold a more confident, upright stance.
5. Improved muscle function:
Mobility promotes blood flow to the muscles, helping them get the nutrients they need and get rid of waste. Consequently, you may experience improved function and coordination.
6. Reduced risk of falling:
When you’re more mobile, you have a better balance, so you’re less likely to fall. This can benefit older people who are most prone to injury from falling.
Top Exercises To Improve Flexibility and Mobility
- Squat to forward fold is very effective for mobility of hamstrings, lower back, ankles, shoulders and neck.
- Shin box to forward step is especially important for glutes and hips.
- Low lunge with rotation helps in improving your shoulders, neck, leg muscle stretch and mobility
- Forward bending to plank/extended plank (depending on level of person) is very fruitful in overall body mobility including core strengthening.
- Yoga is also very important for mobility, flexibility and stability. Main asanas like surya namaskar, pigeon pose, camel pose, cobra pose, etc are highly recommended for overall mobility and flexibility of humans.
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Flexibility and mobility are indispensable elements for every individual although no two humans have the same mobility and flexibility. They both enhance physical performance, prevent injuries, and promote better posture. Beyond the physical realm, flexibility fosters adaptability, crucial in navigating challenges to empower individuals to handle diverse situations, fostering resilience and a more fulfilling, dynamic existence. In short, the importance of flexibility and mobility extends far beyond the gym, permeating in every facet of a healthy life.