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Is Touching Your Toes Overrated? Mobility vs Flexibility by Stacy Geant Hughes

People often use mobility and flexibility interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing. And if you understand the difference you could be preventing injury down the road. Do I have your attention now?

What’s the difference? Flexibility is a muscle’s ability to lengthen on its own. In other words, how bendy you are; can you touch your toes.….or put your nose on your knee. It’s a passive movement. Mobility is the ability to control movement in BOTH your joints and muscles through a range of motion. Think of lifting your leg in front of you until its parallel to the ground bringing it back down again without holding on to it with your hands or bending your knee.

Which is more important? It may be a great party trick when you bend into a pretzel, but without strength and control, it won’t do you much good in the real world of life: work, play, exercise or sports! And I’m not alone thinking this; “Everyone should be including mobility work in their training to ensure they’re performing at their best and decreasing their risk for injury,” says Grayson Wickham, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., a New York-based physical therapist.

What are examples of mobility exercises? Essentially, I like to think of mobility as a combination of strength, stretch and control. One exercise may not have all three elements, but making sure you get them all in your overall exercise regimen in critical. The above video features a Single Leg Stretch, a Pilates exercise, that incorporates all three elements of a good mobility exercise. In this exercise, you bring one leg in and give it a little pulse in for a small stretch and then a deeper second pulse in to further stretch the muscles in the back of your leg. This part gives you stretch and control and then challenges that control when you switch legs and bring the other one in. To add strength to this exercise, I have added ankle weights here.

The bottom line is this; doesn’t everything come down to enjoying a better quality of life, avoiding injury and being active for as long as possible? Mobility, the combination of flexibility, strength and control, is the key to living well and independently as long as possible. Get out there and live your best life!

Stacy Geant Hughes, Owner of Core Value Pilates, LLC, Certified Pilates Instructor

Instagram: @core.value.pilates

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