The most common definition of mobility is the ability to move freely and with ease through a full spectrum of movement, as the body was intended to do. In order to achieve mobility several factors are required, including flexibility and stability, or strength.
Flexibility indicates that range of motion is present and functional. For example, in order to do a deep squat flexibility must be present in the hips, knees and ankles. Without this full range of motion proper mobility is not possible.
In order to understand how the body is meant to move requires recognizing different regions are designed with their own unique jobs. The human body is made up of regions of stability next to regions that are designed to be very mobile. These regions of the body work together to perform a deep squat correctly: i.e. the ankle remains flexible while the knee provides stability.
Using our above example of a deep squat let us assess the concept of a functional movement. If flexibility is present with no limiting factors, injuries or defects to a muscle or joint, a person should be able to perform this movement smoothly and efficiently. Have you ever noticed that from childhood a toddler performs a squat to pick up a toy or play and holds this position comfortably for long periods? The child is demonstrating that these movements are innate and natural with the development and growth of the musculoskeletal system.
However, as we age this natural functional movement process is interrupted or altered. For example, an adult will typically bend over to pick up items from the ground without even bending his or her knees.
So why do we transition away from a movement that seems inherent and natural in the development of our muscles and joints as we age?
The loss of mobility due to injuries, lifestyle changes, work demands or lack of exercise and improper nutrition forces adults to adapt, literally, a new process of movement to compensate for weakness, pain, or tightness. Poor posture from working at a desk for 10+ hours a day is perhaps one of the most common contributing lifestyle factors in modern society. This hunched position that we’re all too familiar with increases stress on the neck and shoulders, causes the expansion of the glutes thereby weakening the muscles, tightens the hip flexors which reduces flexibility, and induces spastic firing of the hamstrings.
The wear of daily life interrupts the bio-mechanical processes we naturally develop as children. From flexibility and range of motion, to muscle firing patterns and strength, we have to tackle mobility from several fronts in order to reach correct functional movement. The good news is this is entirely within reach! The human body can be retrained to improve upon the damage wrought over time to these crucial processes.