Mobility is one of the most neglected aspects of fitness, with most people are completely unaware of its important role in everyday health and well-being.
The majority of fitness buffs focus on aspects of fitness, like getting bigger and stronger muscles and losing body fat. But the fact is, without good mobility, achieving those goals will be borderline impossible.
Mobility is critical in relieving pain and has numerous positive effects that benefit your ability to perform daily activities. According to a 2016 study, 8 out of 10 people suffer from chronic pain, hampering their ability to perform simple tasks like walking and lifting.
Let’s look at why you need to improve your mobility starting today.
What is mobility, and how does it impact daily life?
In short, when your muscles are flexible, it’s much easier for your joints to work through their full range of motion (ROM); this is what we call mobility.
When people have poor or inadequate mobility and flexibility, it drastically reduces their ability to perform daily activities. It can also lead to serious long-term health problems like chronic pain and arthritis.
Mobility is not just crucial to athletes. Mobility impacts our ability to perform daily tasks like sitting down, getting up, and even walking. These functional movements often require different joints to work in sync. This is why stabilisation, strength training, and dynamic stretching are all critical to improving health.
Here are a few factors that can negatively impact mobility:
Why is mobility essential for your health?
Maintaining an adequate level of mobility is crucial for several reasons, including correct posture, injury prevention and efficiency of movement. However, the older we get, the more critical good mobility becomes, especially when helping to reduce the chance of falling.
Let’s take a look at 5 ways in which poor mobility can negatively affect health, well-being and even the healthcare system.
1Increased risks of falls
A 2014 study by Baylor University Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences found that a whopping 27% of American adults aged between 45 and 79 had experienced falling over at least once within the last 12 months.
Additionally and perhaps more alarming, 11% of the 27% who had fallen were seriously injured, resulting in time away from work and/or hospitalisation. Researchers also found that women aged 35 to 65 had the highest rate of falls, while adults aged 70+ also exhibited high incidence rates.
In another study, researchers concluded that because middle-aged women have the highest rate of falls, an emphasis on mobility and strength training should be a priority.
Falls are not only serious when it comes to injury but can also lead to death among the elderly. A 2019 report showed that deaths from falling had risen. For example, 25,180 seniors aged over 75 died due to a fall in 2016, while in 2000, the number was 8,613.
2Negative impacts on cognitive health
As people lose their mobility, it can affect their personal life, with many choosing to avoid social activities and gatherings, leading to feelings of isolation. Even when mobility only slightly decreases, it can still impact a person’s mental health.
One study published in the National Library of Medicine found disability and lower-life-space mobility were linked with low social engagement. The activities measured were parties, festivals and volunteering. The group also measured the impact of a loss of mobility on daily tasks like answering the phone or using the computer.
3Rising costs in healthcare
One area you might not expect lack of mobility to be associated with is rising healthcare costs.
The Centres for Disease Control, or the CDC, has estimated that by 2030, close to 50 million middle-aged adults will experience a fall. Of those 50 million, 12 million will have serious injuries resulting in health-related spending exceeding $100 billion.
The CDC has also published another report indicating that injuries caused by falling are in the top 20 most costly conditions. They found that the average hospitalisation cost was over $30,000. Furthermore, as people age, the costs of falls continue rising, adding financial pressure to the physical and emotional stress already felt.
4Poor joint health
Joints are another area that can be negatively impacted by poor mobility and flexibility. Being able to move your joints through their full range of motion is absolutely critical to cartilage health. When stiff joints and range of motion are limited, blood flow and other vital nutrients are restricted, causing pain and inflammation, particularly in the hip and knee joints.
5Rapid muscle exhaustion
Last but certainly not any less important is muscle fatigue. Tight and inflexible muscles are prone to fatigue much quicker than relaxed and supple muscles. Muscle fatigue is a serious condition that leads to injury as the muscle cannot protect the joint adequately while performing the activity.
One study that looked at mobility-related fatigue found that tiring muscles were closely associated with slower walking speeds. Researchers found that 21% of women reported mobility-related fatigue, with men accounting for 24%.
Among male participants, 15% reported a lack of muscle strength and mobility as being the primary culprit for slower walking speeds. Interestingly the study found that women did not report muscle strength as a reason for walking slower.
How to test your mobility?
Ok, so now we know the importance of mobility, how can we test it? There are many ways to test your mobility, but here I’ve chosen to focus on the shoulder joint since most people spend long days sitting at a desk.
This test is simple to conduct and won’t cause any pain, but it will provide you with a good indication of the level of your mobility.
Shoulder mobility test
Step 1. Lie flat on your back with your knees at 90° and your feet flat on the floor
Step 2. Now, slowly bring your arms up perpendicular to the floor
Step 3. Lower your left arm behind your head as far as possible (don’t overstretch). Ideally, your hand should touch the ground without having to arch your back
Step 4. Repeat with your right arm
If you were forced to arch your back in order to touch your hand on the floor, then your mobility could do with some improvement.
Once you’ve completed this test, try it again, but this time not with your feet on the ground but rather up in the air. Ensure your knees are at 90°, take both arms behind your head, and try to touch the floor.
If you can’t touch the floor with your hands while your legs are up, you have tight lats.
If your legs are down and you can’t touch your hands on the floor, your shoulders lack mobility.
Let’s sum it up
Mobility plays an important role in the healthy functioning of all individuals. Good mobility can significantly improve your quality of life, whether you’re a professional athlete, a parent or an aspiring entrepreneur.
Furthermore, mobility decreases pain and discomfort and is essential for aerobic activities like walking and cycling. Additionally, flexibility and range of motion are critical to joint health, particularly in the back, knees and hips.
Improve your mobility today and start reaping its benefits!
Hungry for knowledge? Here is more
Check your mobility & flexibility level right now! Try doing these 8 simple tests shared by Precision Wellbeing YouTube Channel at home and find out what parts of your body need improvements.
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