Written by Jordan McElwain — Updated: Tuesday, March 7, 2023
Flexibility and mobility, while similar, refer to distinct concepts in exercise science and fitness. Flexibility and mobility are similar in that they both involve movement around joints and are important for overall health and well-being. They are also interconnected and can impact each other. For example, good flexibility can help improve mobility by allowing joints to move more freely through their full range of motion. Similarly, good mobility can help maintain flexibility by keeping joints and muscles active and moving.
Flexibility is the range of motion around your joints and the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to stretch. Good flexibility allows for ease of movement and can help prevent injuries by allowing joints to move freely without being over-strained.
Flexibility can be improved through stretching exercises and other forms of physical activity that involve a full range of motion. In addition to physical benefits, flexibility can also promote mental and emotional well-being by reducing stress and tension in the body.
Mobility refers to your ability to move joints freely through their full range of motion. It involves not only flexibility but also the strength and control of the muscles surrounding the joint. Good mobility allows for smooth, pain-free movement and can improve performance in daily activities.
Mobility is important for overall health and well-being, as it helps maintain joint health and reduces the risk of injury. Improving mobility requires a combination of flexibility work and strength training, as well as exercises that focus on joint stability and control. Some common exercises for improving mobility include squats, lunges, and other functional movements that challenge the body to move in different ways.
Flexibility and mobility issues can affect people of all ages and backgrounds. Some common factors that may contribute to both mobility and flexibility include:
Aging: As we age, our joints and muscles may become stiffer and less flexible, which can make it more difficult to move freely.
A sedentary lifestyle: A lack of physical activity can lead to muscle weakness and stiffness.
Injuries or surgery: Injuries and surgeries can lead to a reduced range of motion during the healing process and rehabilitation to regain full function.
Poor posture: Poor posture can lead to muscle imbalances and reduced range of motion.
Chronic conditions: Chronic conditions such as arthritis, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and other neurological or musculoskeletal conditions can impact mobility.
Obesity: Excess weight can put stress on the joints and muscles, leading to reduced mobility and increased risk of injury.
Strain: Overusing certain muscles or engaging in repetitive movements can lead to tightness and reduced flexibility.
Genetic factors: Some people may have a genetic predisposition to reduced flexibility, which can make it more difficult to achieve and maintain good flexibility.
Improving your flexibility and mobility can help reduce the risk of injury and improve overall physical performance. Improvement can be achieved through a combination of stretching exercises, strength training, and other forms of physical activity, including the following.
Regular stretching exercises can help improve flexibility and range of motion in the joints. Stretching should be performed after a warm-up or workout, when the muscles are warm and pliable.
Foam rolling is a form of self-massage that can help release muscle tension and improve mobility. It involves using a foam roller to apply pressure to different parts of the body.
Yoga is a form of physical activity that involves stretching and strengthening the body through a series of poses. It can help improve flexibility, mobility, balance, and overall physical and mental well-being.
Pilates focuses on building core strength and improving overall body alignment and movement. It can help improve flexibility and mobility while also reducing the risk of injury.
Building strength in the muscles surrounding the joints can help improve mobility and reduce the risk of injury. Exercises such as squats, lunges, and deadlifts can help build lower-body strength, while exercises such as push-ups and rows can help build upper-body strength.
Engaging in regular cardio exercise can help improve overall physical fitness, which can, in turn, improve flexibility and mobility. Activities such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling, and swimming can all help improve cardiovascular fitness.
Rest and recovery are important for maintaining flexibility and mobility. Overtraining can lead to muscle tightness and reduced range of motion, so it's important to find time to rest and recover between workouts.
At the end of the day, flexibility and mobility impact each other, so improving and maintaining both is important for your overall health and wellness. If you’re not sure how to create a routine to help you get moving—or you just don’t know where to start, explore these 7 mobility stretches and exercises perfect for beginners!