One of the things that we love about exercise is that we are constantly learning more and more about how the body works. It seems like every few years there are new trends that sweep through the fitness industry. While some are simply marketing ploys to sell more dvds, many of the changes you have seen or heard are the result of new thinking about how the body moves and changes.
When we talk about “flexibility” we are referring to range of motion across a single joint or muscle. The term “mobility” is based on how the body moves as a unit instead of isolated movements. When one muscle or group of muscles is tight or loaded it can cause muscles next to it to also tighten (if your hips and glutes are tight, then your hamstrings and/or your lower back will also be tight). Increasing mobility allows the body to move without stiffness, alleviating everyday aches, and pains, and reduce your chances of getting injured.
We can test your mobility to determine your potential for injury. This is different than simple stretches that only allow us to see you in isolation (which is not how you move in real life). Limited mobility will increase your risk of injury and the testing will tell us what areas you need to improve as well as imbalances from left side to right side (another important risk factor for injury).
As we age our bodies will gradually stiffen based on lack of activity, prior injuries, our occupation, and the types of activities we participate in regularly. The lack of activity forces our bodies into consistent limited range of motion and causes tightening in movement patterns. Prior injuries cause limited range of motion and contribute to muscle and mobility imbalances from one side to the other. What we do as a profession and our regular activities also contribute to limitations in range of motion and imbalance.
Look for coaches or trainers that use the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) to determine your potential for injury and apply the outcome of your test to design an exercise program that will not only improve your mobility, but also your strength on the way to your personal goals. Take care of yourself.