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This is why mobility matters

Uncover the extensive health benefits of mobility exercises and explore an effective routine to enhance your joint range of motion.

Mobility, 1 of the 3 pillars of fitness alongside cardio and strength, plays a crucial role in achieving overall health and fitness. While each pillar offers unique benefits, incorporating all 3 is essential for a well-rounded fitness regimen.

 

In this article, delve into the profound impact of mobility exercises on your overall well-being. Discover the remarkable benefits, from increased flexibility to improved sleep and brain health. And uncover an effective routine to enhance your mobility—the range of motion of your joints—to unlock your body’s potential.

7 mobility exercise benefits

  1. Increases flexibility – Makes your body more supple and flexible, which improves posture and balance. 
  2. Improves athletic performance – Dynamic stretching prior to a workout is linked to improvements in performance.
  3. Prevents injury – Warms up the body before physical activity and makes your body more supple. 
  4. Improves sleep – Improves both sleep duration and quality.
  5. Maintains brain health – Slows the natural cognitive decline associated with aging. 
  6. Increases circulation – Daily passive stretching increases muscle blood flow during exercise.
  7. Builds strength and stability – Allows for easier and deeper movements while building strength and stability. 

The science of mobility

Here’s what happens in your body when you do mobility exercises:

 

  1. When you stretch, the nerve receptor located at the junction of a muscle and tendon senses tension in the muscle/tendon. 
  2. It then sends a signal via afferent neurons to the spinal cord.
  3. The spinal cord then sends a signal back to the muscle to relax via efferent neurons.
  4. Muscle spindles, located deep within a muscle, sense change in muscle length as well as the range of change in length and send a signal to the spine.
  5. This signal triggers the stretch reflex (also called the myotatic reflex).
  6. The stretch reflex resists the increase in muscle length by causing a muscle to contract.
  7. The more rapidly muscle length increases, the stronger the stretch reflex is. Therefore, the primary function of muscle spindles is to protect the body from injury caused by overstretching.
  8. The stiffer a muscle (and tendon), the greater the elastic response.
 

Additionally, when you stretch, your body responds by increasing blood flow to that area. The blood vessels around the targeted muscle then widen to allow more blood to flow through, and your heart starts pumping more blood. So, while it may be tempting to jump straight into your workout or to prioritize only cardio and strength, supporting your practice with mobility is essential for overall fitness and health.

Mobility exercises have a range of benefits, from increased flexibility and athletic performance to improved brain health and injury prevention.

Best mobility routine 

These are some mobility exercises that you may wish to do:

 

Child’s Pose to Downward-Facing Dog – repeat 3 times

 

Child’s pose: Kneel on the floor and lower your hips toward your heels and let your torso fall over your knees and your head fall between your arms as you reach your arms forward onto the floor; hold here for a few breaths.

 

Downward-facing dog: Come into Tabletop position, shifting your weight forward until your shoulders are over your wrists and your hips are over your knees. Flip your toes under and push your feet through the floor, extend your arms so that your hips lift, your chest pushes through your arms, and your legs straighten. 

 

Return to child’s pose: Lengthening through your torso, take a few deep breaths and slowly release your knees to the floor, untucking your toes and moving back into Child’s Pose.

 

Frog Pose to Deep Squat – repeat 3 times

 

Deep squat: Stand with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders, toes turned out, then sit back to lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor.

 

Frog pose: Shifting your weight forward and placing your hands on the floor in front of you, spread your knees farther apart as you lower yourself toward the ground, then bring your chest to the floor if possible.

 

Return to squat/stand: Hold for a second before pushing back to that deep squat with your toes turned out. Move slowly and then stand.

 

Chest and Shoulder Opener

 

Lie face up on the floor. Extend your right arm straight above your chest (you can lift a weight here if you so choose) and put your left arm over your head resting on the floor by your ear. Bend your right leg, placing your right foot on the floor next to your left knee. Roll onto your left shoulder, letting your right knee fall to the floor. 

 

Now extend your right leg onto the floor and slowly roll your hips forward and then back to the position with your right knee bent and your arm still extended overhead. 

 

Repeat 8 to 12 times; then carefully roll onto your back, hold the weight (if using one) into your chest to give your arms a break, and switch sides, repeating on the other side.

 

Arm and Shoulder Circles – repeat 10 times

 

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your hips and shoulders square to start this exercise. Relax your left arm by your left side as you circle your right arm forward 10 times Switch sides and repeat.

 

Hip Circles

 

Lie face up on the floor with your legs extended straight. Bend your right knee and bring it toward the chest so the knee is pointing toward the ceiling. Draw circles—make them progressively bigger—with that knee in one direction 20 times; switch directions and repeat.

 

Leg Swing

 

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart with a soft bend in your knees. Lift one leg off the ground, keeping a gentle bend in the knee. Gently sweep the lifted leg in front of you, then swing it directly behind you like a pendulum. Repeat this motion 5 to 10 times, then switch sides.

 

Hip Circles

 

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Press your hips out to the left, leaning your body slightly to the right. Move your hips in a large circle, passing through front, right, back, and left. Repeat 5 to 10 times, then reverse the direction of the circle.

 

Arm Movements

 

Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, raise your arms to either side of your body, creating a “T” shape. Keeping your arms straight, start to rotate your arms in large circles, moving from the shoulder joint, keeping your palms facing down. Repeat 5 to 10 times, then switch directions.

 

Swinging Spine Rotation

 

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, and raise your arms to either side of your body, creating a “T” shape. Begin to twist through your spine, moving your arms parallel to the floor. Twist left and right through your spine, keeping your hips and legs facing forward. Repeat 5 to 10 times.

 

Yogic practice 

 

You may also wish to practice yoga for mobility. Yogic practices specifically enhance muscular strength and body flexibility, promote and improve respiratory and cardiovascular function, promote recovery from and treatment of addiction, reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain, improve sleep patterns, and enhance overall well-being and quality of life.

 

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