Body Mobility and Flexibility for a Healthy Life
Movement is life. Consider this lesson from nature. Flowing water remains clean and clear. Use the example of a mountain stream that flows clear and clean. The water is often cool, clear and clean enough to drink without a major risk to illness. This is not to say the some rivers do not run “dirty” with mud and debris and may carry bacteria and parasites, but the general concept of clear running water is the lesson. Now consider a pond or stagnant pool. Overtime, these pools spoil and bacteria starts to grow. The water becomes darker, the top of the water often becomes green with algae. Stagnant water is often dangerous as it provides a good environment for many kinds of bacteria and parasites. The water often becomes contaminated overtime. This example can be likened to the human body. The human body is built to move. No movement, often results in a loss of healthy living. Hence our opening statement … movement is life!
One traditional health teaching is referred to as the “infant state”. We strive to emulate the infant state for heath. Three areas of focus comes from emulating the infant state. They are proper breathing, proper mind and as related to this information, flexibility. Humans are born into a very flexible state. The bones are soft, the joints are full of mobility and flexibility becomes a protection against injury as the human condition learns to adapt to life. The infant and toddler maintain high levels of flexibility. Even in youth, the human body maintains an impressive level of mobility and flexibility. Overtime, life becomes hectic and busy. The human condition start to lose that flexibility that was so magnificent in our youth. Every human is unique and born with distinct levels of inherited genetic “gifts”. Flexibility may be one of those gifts. However, we all have the capacity to work on improving the mobility and flexibility we lose over time. It takes effort and focus.
Flexibility and mobility are two very symbiotic methods of health maintenance. There are many definitions in the health and fitness world related to what defines flexibility and mobility … and debates over which is better. Mobility is about functional movement and range of motion to perform movement. Flexibility is also a range of motion, but it may not indicate that the body has the functional mobility needed for proper movement. Just because a person can touch their toes, does not mean that they have the mobility to perform a perfect squatting motion. Some may argue the flexibility is a result of good mobility work and vice versa. Regardless of this argument, they are both beneficial to a healthy life. All in all if the human condition puts effort into improving, maintaining and increasing range of motion and proper physical functions then the results are beneficial. There are good ways, and like many things, there are bad ways. There is a balance to all things. This also includes maintenance of the physical body.
Dynamic and Static
There are many terminologies used to describe the varied practices of improving range of motion and flexibility of the human body. In terms of flexibility there are two major common standards used to increase flexibility. Flexibility involves either dynamic variations or static variations. Dynamic is associated with motion or movement. Static is associated with little to no motion. Remember that the effort of mobility and flexibility supports and promotes fluid movement and muscle coordination, reduces muscle tension and increases circulation of blood to the body which in turn increases energy levels.
So what is the benefit of dynamic and static flexibility exercises? Static is the most common form of flexibility exercise. This typically involves stretching a relaxed muscle through actions that bring that relaxed muscle under tension. This tension is maintained for a longer period of time and this tension is decreased in slow controlled manner. If we stand and try to touch our hands to the floor without bending our knees and hold that position, that is a common example of static stretching. Static exercises help increase range of motion. However, this type of development should be done after any strength and conditioning exercise. Why? Static stretching decreases muscle strength and can have a negative impact on training. Static stretching is not a bad thing. Simply said, timing is the key. Good timing for static flexibility exercises are after strength and conditioning exercise, on rest days between strength and conditioning exercise and before sleep.
Dynamic stretching is active development of flexibility through movement related to range of motion. This type of movement helps the muscles to warm up and decrease the “stiffness” often felt in our bodies as a result of being stagnant. Dynamic flexibility exercises prepare the body for activity. Typically, this type of flexibility exercise will not focus on a single muscle but instead a group of muscles used to emulate functional movement. A controlled body weight walking lunge exercise is a good example of dynamic flexibility exercise as a warm up. Dynamic flexibility increases range of motion and warms up the muscle before strength and conditioning without significant decreases in muscle strength. This exercise may actually help improve attributes needed for strength and conditioning such as the reduction of stiffness, increased circulation to the muscles that result in warming up the muscle and increased speed and acceleration of movement as well as increased mobility of movement. As stated with static flexibility exercise, timing is essential. Use dynamic flexibility exercise prior to strength and conditioning exercise.
Mobility and Flexibility Together!
The overall teaching of mobility or flexibility is that movement equals health. As stated the human body is designed to move and move well. Consider a hinge that supports any door. This hinge is much like the muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons that support the human body. These body elements require effort and development. If the hinge is not used the result often becomes a rusty hinge that inhibits the action of the supported door. In extreme cases the door cannot open! Don’t become a rusty hinge. Get the picture? Lack of movement is to limit health. No health is no life. Develop daily mobility and flexibility practices that promote healthy living. Ensure these practices are balanced and supportive of you unique physical condition. What is good for one person is not necessarily good for another. We must be in tune with our unique limitations as related to physical health. Ensure these mobility and flexibility practices are properly timed for maximum benefit. Timing is everything. Consistency is also essential. Always remember the lesson of “little by little goes far”. Always remember the lesson of “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Get started, develop consistency, use moderation and balance as good rules of practice and maintain this practice as a way of life. Movement is life. This means movement is a way of life not something we practice just when we want.
Resources are endless in the modern age. Information can be overwhelming. We are often times faced to make educated decisions about which information is correct or optimal. There is an expression that “knowledge can be dangerous.” This means simply that overconfidence can develop due to ego through the belief that we know everything. Be open to ideas and always willing to learn. Analyze information and resources and the goals that each source is looking to provide. Each individual must choose the path and choose the make the effort. The arguments and debates are endless. The only truth is that lack of effort results in lack of health are related to the human condition. Live a life of movement and flexibility! This is a truly healthy life!