What is Mobility and Why is it so important?

brain health healthy living mindful movement morning practice strength training stress-free Mar 24, 2024

Mobility is the ability to move freely.  It involves the joints and their movement in relation to their full range of motion. Simply put, your mobility determines how easily and efficiently you can move.

If an injury causes you to lose mobility in any of your joints, that means you can’t move it very well, and this will affect your daily living habits.

Optimal mobility, defined as relative ease and freedom of movement in all of its forms, is central to healthy aging.  It is the foundation for living a healthy and independent life.  Mobility also helps us avoid falls and prevent injuries, and allows older adults to live longer on their own.

From doing daily errands to taking the trip of a lifetime, from going out with friends to staying in your own home, much of living happily and well depends on mobility. 

But mobility can fade away as we age, until suddenly one day you realize that you are unable to perform many of the activities you used to enjoy.  Or maybe you decide to take up yoga (which is a great idea!) and realize you can no longer touch your toes.

Many factors affect your mobility and ability to keep your independence. Exercise, diet, preventive care, and lifestyle choices will keep you stronger and steadier with fewer aches and more stamina.

As my mom used to say (and she was healthy and mobile until age 89) "If you rest, you rust." 

Loss of mobility affects one-third to one-half of those age 65 and older.

And statistics from the CDC indicate that close to 14% of American adults have some kind of mobility issue that impacts their ability to safely walk and climb stairs.

It is well established that the prevalence of functional limitations and disability is associated with aging. For example, 31.7% of adults aged 65 years and older report difficulty in walking 3 city blocks; only 11.3% of adults aged 45 to 64 years have similar difficulty. 

Another study reported that 20% of adults aged 65 years and older do not drive a motor vehicle. Limitations in walking and driving reduce access to goods and services, which leads to poor health outcomes. For example, older adults with walking limitations and difficulties with driving are less likely to be able to travel to grocery stores and supermarkets, resulting in fewer nutritional options, compromised health, and impaired functioning. Older adults with these limitations are also less likely to obtain health services or to obtain them in a timely manner, including preventive services.

As well, limited mobility is independently associated with health problems and injuries. Sedentary behaviour, such as restricted or limited walking, is implicated in the etiology of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, poor cognitive function, and depression. 

Cessation of driving is also associated with an increased risk of depression among older adults. Injuries from falls and motor vehicle crashes, an elevated risk for mobility-impaired persons, are leading causes of disability, nursing home placement, and premature death among people aged 65 years and older. Indeed, falls and motor vehicle crashes represent the 2 leading causes of accidental death among older adults.

How to Increase Your Mobility

Start with adding mobility stretching to your list of daily healthy habits, like brushing your teeth or drinking water. We often don’t realize we need to upkeep healthy routines until it’s too late (AKA, you get injured). 

Lifting weights, cardio fitness, yoga, and sports, are all great for keeping you fit and healthy. But, if you want to take your fitness and performance to the next level, it’s time to also consider how you move.  Mobility describes the range of motion in everything you do, which requires both flexibility and strength. 

Mobility training is nothing new, but many fitness enthusiasts, even pros, neglect it.  Mobility training includes any exercises that will improve your mobility. Often mistaken for static stretching, mobility training is much more than this. It could include dynamic stretching, yoga, agility exercises, myofascial releases, and anything else that helps you move better and improves your range of motion. 

Dynamic Stretching

Static stretching, the old school way to warm up for a workout, turns out to have limited usefulness. In fact, it’s better for after a workout when your muscles are warm, and you want to work on flexibility. 

In terms of mobility, dynamic stretching is much more beneficial. The difference is motion. During a dynamic stretch, you move the body and open up joints. Try these: 

  • Hip swings. For anyone with tight hips, this hip mobility exercise stretches the hip muscles and improves joint range of motion. Swing the left leg back and forth and then side to side. Then switch to the right leg.
  • Lunge variations. A lunge is a strength training move, but you can also use it for a hip mobility exercise. Do side lunges for lateral movement. Lunge and twist to the side to stretch the trunk, or while stretching one arm over the head. Lunges also help with ankle mobility.
  • Shoulder circles and swing. Improve motion in the shoulder with small and large circles in both directions. You can also swing the arms up and down and side to side to stretch the joint. 
  • Butt kicks. Stretch the quads dynamically with a stationary or walking butt kick. 
  • Cat-cow. This is a great dynamic stretch for the spine. On your hands and knees move between arching and rounding the back upward. 

Yoga or Pilates

Both of these types of workouts are great for mobility. Yoga and Pilates are all about precise movements and include poses and moves that you probably don’t engage in regularly. In other words, these workouts get you out of your movement comfort zone to increase flexibility and range of motion while also building strength. 

Myofascial Release

Foam rolling is an easy way to release tightness in the connective tissue beneath the skin. When the fascia is tight, it restricts mobility and hinders recovery. Use a foam roller on all the major muscle groups before a workout to loosen up the fascia and ensure you can move more fully.  Or roll a tennis ball under your feet or on a wall behind that tight spot on your back.

And yes, this kind of movement isn't always comfortable, but a little discomfort is worth the benefits you'll receive!

Strength and Mobility

When strength training, pay attention to the range of motion of your movements. Squat and lunge variations make combining strength and mobility efficient. Do standard, reverse, and side to hit all planes of motion. Do standard squats with calf raises to improve motion in the hips, knees, and ankles. The important factor here is to change it up. The more you move in multiple directions while strength training, the better. 

And to borrow lifestyle habits from The Blue Zones, Move Your Body Throughout the Day

You might try:

  • Stretching while you watch tv
  • Take an after dinner evening walk
  • Park farther away from your destination
  • Choose stairs over elevators
  • Take standing and stretching breaks at work
  • Use a stand-up workstation, and fidget while you work (or dance!)

The world’s longest living people live active lives that include daily physical activities, like gardening, walking, and manual tasks.

"March is Mindful Movement Month" Summary

Regular exercise is essential for physical health and psychological well-being. We are seeing a growing epidemic of obesity in the West that is now affecting our children. Humans are more sedentary than at any other time in recorded history. As a result, we suffer increased risks for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, cancer, and other diseases.

An important part of a healthy daily routine is mindful movement, which is exercise where we are present and aware of the sensations and movements of our bodies.

A complete practice of mindful movement includes these three elements:

  • Cardiovascular/aerobic activity – detoxifies the body, strengthens the heart, boosts mood, and increases stamina
  • Strength training – builds muscle mass and protects bone health
  • Mobility/flexibility training – beneficial for joint mobility, calming the nervous system, and integrating the mind/body system

So wherever you are in your regular movement practices, see if you can ramp it up, small increments at a time, to stave off this aspect of aging!

This Week’s Home Practice ~ In case you missed this earlier this month!

~ Start your day with “Peg’s 10-minute Morning Mobility Routine”

  1. BONUS – DOWNLOAD “Peg’s 10-minute Morning Mobility Routine” HERE
  2. Make a commitment to yourself  – set aside 10 minutes each morning to do the routine, as soon as possible after you get up
  3. Remember to breathe and focus on your movement, a.k.a. Be mindful!
  4. And you can complete your Morning Practice by following up Mobility with Breathwork and Meditation!
  5. Notice how your body feels before and after the routine each day; and at the beginning and end of the week.
  6. Are you ready to commit to this activity as an ongoing practice?


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