Mobility has become a trendy buzzword that everyone seems to use, but rarely do you find someone who actually knows what it means. Mobility is tricky to explain because it is often used as a synonym for flexibility, which it is not. Mobility requires flexibility, but flexibility does not require mobility. You can be highly flexible without being highly mobile, while you cannot be highly mobile without being flexible.
Without getting too technical, flexibility can be described as your passive range of motion—in other words, whatever positions you can stretch and force yourself into. Doing the splits is an example of passive flexibility. Body weight and gravity pull you into the position, you don’t have to use your muscles to get yourself here. If you are flexible, sliding into the splits is easy.
Mobility is when someone has flexibility combined with strength and control. The strength and control of the range of motion allows for them to move through a complete range, meaning they can get in and out of the position without help or outside force. This is called an active range of motion, as you actively have to use your muscles to get you there. In the same example as above, a highly mobile individual would be able to stand themselves up out of the splits without any outside assistance.
Mobility is important because increased mobility means increased ability. More ability means decreased limitations. Decreased limitations equals increased movement options. Increased movement options equals more accessible fun and most importantly, decreased chance of injury.
Fortunately, it is never too late to train mobility. Just exactly how mobile you can become is limited partially by your age and current limitations and partially by genetics. One certainty though: mobility can be improved across the board no matter your current condition.
Kristen Hansen, BA, CSEP-CPT, PFT-NAIT, NASM-CES, FRCms