What is Mobility?
You wake up at 6am, hop in the shower, grab your cup of coffee and you’re headed straight to work. Your head is down in your computer, you’re knocking out projects and before you know it, it’s time for dinner.
You head to the kitchen and reach for the tin of chickpeas on the top shelf of your cupboard, but your shoulder is so stiff you can’t get your arm over your head—what’s going on?
There are many factors to consider when something like this happens. Aging, a nagging injury, a sedentary lifestyle… or maybe it’s simply poor mobility.
According to the American Council of Exercise “A lack of motion, especially in multiple planes and directions, can create adhesions between the various layers of muscle and fascia, which ultimately reduce joint motion and restrict mobility.”
Mobility is the ability to control your body with an optimal range of motion—pain-free. So, if your range of motion is relatively limited, and you find it extra to perform daily tasks with ease, consider adding mobility exercises to your lifestyle.
Think of it as putting oil on your body’s hinges. The more movements you incorporate into your routine, the more your connective tissues become elastic. This has a significant, positive impact on your joint health and overall longevity of free and easy movement.
What are the Benefits of Mobility Training?
Mobility training covers various exercises from yoga and low-impact workouts to training with or without weights. Although general movement is important and encouraged for living your most Nutritious Life, there are a few proven benefits specific to mobility training:
- Promotes balance
- Improves range of motion
- Enhances posture
- Increases flexibility
- Stimulates blood circulation
- Reduces risks of injury
The following mobility exercises are quick, easy and accessible to anyone, anytime. Move through them one after the other or pick and choose the best mobility exercise for you based on what your body is asking you for.
7 Head to Toe Mobility Exercises for Beginners
1. Neck Tilt
If you’re hunched over your computer all day (or scrolling Instagram on your phone all day?), it’s time to pause and give your neck the care it deserves. Spine Health says poor, hunched posture results in recurring neck pain. This quick, simple neck flexion and extension exercise will help combat the strain.
- Stand hip-width apart. Roll your shoulders forward then back down, shoulder blades together.
- Place both hands on your waist.
- Inhale, tilt your head down and let your chin touch your chest. Stay here for two cycles of breath.
- Exhale, return to center.
- Inhale, tilt your neck toward your right shoulder, leading with your ear. Hold for a couple breaths.
- Return to center.
- Do the same steps for the other side.
- Repeat for a couple more rounds.
- Listen to what your neck is telling you! If your body is restricting you to perform a certain movement, chances are, it’s protecting you from getting injured.
- If you’re in front of your desk, tilt that neck away! You don’t have to be standing to do this quick exercise.
2. Standing or Sitting Arm Raise with Side Stretches
The shoulder is the most mobile joint in your body, making it more susceptible to injury. Whether you’re stepping away from your desk for a quick break or you’re about to jump into a low-impact workout, this stretch will get your shoulders ready.
- Stand tall, keep the four corners of your feet grounded.
- If you’re doing this seated, ensure both feet are on the ground and you’re rooted through your hips.
- Inhale, reach your hands up over your head, palms to touch.
- Exhale, arms back down to your sides.
- Repeat this three more times.
- Follow the same steps but this time, when your arms are lifted in the air, grab your right wrist with your left hand, slowly pull your hand and stretch to the left side. Do this for one cycle of breath.
- Exhale, arms back to center.
- Repeat the same steps on the other side, three times on each side.
- Activate your glutes and your core for more stability while doing the arm stretches.
3. Cat and Cow
Long periods of sitting or stooping down without a proper stance and abdominal muscle engagement may cause long-term low back pain. Here’s the stretch you need to give your neck down to your spine some TLC.
- Come to all fours. Place your hands underneath your shoulders, shoulder-width apart. Spread your fingers evenly, pointing forward. Note that your shoulders should be externally rotated (squeeze your shoulder blades back and down) with elbow creases facing forward.
- Knees should be directly below your hips, and the tops of your feet are touching the mat.
- Keep your neck in neutral position, eyes gazing down.
- Inhale, drop your belly, open your chest, widen your shoulders, and look forward. Tilt your buttocks up towards the ceiling.
- Exhale, round your back towards the ceiling, drop your head down while hugging the abdominal muscles to your spine. Push away from the ground.
- Repeat Cat and Cow for a total of six rounds.
- Use towels below your wrists or knees for comfort.
4. Active Leg Raise (Modified Vishnu’s Couch)
Sore or weak hammies, quads, and hips? If so, this mobility exercise will challenge your stability, improve strength, and help improve both over time.
- Start by lying on your back, roll over to your right side. Extend your right arm towards the top edge of your mat—let your armpit kiss the ground. Bend your right arm, lift your head and rest the side of your head on your hand.
- Place your left hand on your waist. Engage your core.
- Keep your entire body in one line from elbow to heels.
- Flex your feet and spread your toes. Imagine that both feet are pushing against the wall.
- Inhale, lift your left leg up high.
- Exhale, release it back down.
- Repeat six times.
- Switch sides and follow the same steps.
- Do it slowly and mindfully.
- If it’s a challenge to keep your balance and you’re tipping forward and back, you can:
a. Take a few seconds of rest at each interval.
b. Use your top hand to support you by letting your fingertips touch the mat across your chest.
5. Supine Windshield Wiper
Counter your long day at work with this relaxing low back stretch. Bonus? You’ll give your core muscles a boost at the same time.
- Begin by lying on your back; your shoulders should be rolled back, pressing your shoulder blades flat against the floor. Maintain this position while extending both arms straight out to the side.
- Inhale, lift your legs, and keep your thighs perpendicular to the floor with your knees in the air. To avoid back pain or injury, press your lower back against the ground.
- Exhale, lower your knees while keeping your shoulder blades firmly pressed to the floor. Keep your core engaged as you twist your spine and drop both knees to the right side.
- Bring both knees back to center, repeat the same steps for the left side.
- Do this three times on each side.
- Keep your neck in neutral position while following the steps.
- Don’t rush. Do the movements slow and controlled.
6. Standing Calf Raise
Your calf muscles work with other lower leg muscles to help you move your feet, says Cleveland Clinic. This exercise promotes ankle stability and calf strength.
- Stand on your mat, feet hip-width apart, toes pointing forward.
- Hands on your waist or alongside your body.
- Pull your belly into your spine.
- Inhale, slowly raise your heels, while pressing the ball joints of your toes against the ground. Keep your knees extended with a slight bend, not locked.
- Exhale, lower your heels back down.
- Repeat 6 times.
- If stability is an issue, use a wall or a chair as a means of support.
7. Toe Raise
Tired and unhappy feet? It’s easy to forget about the bottom of your feet and your toes but they play a vital role in getting you from one place to another throughout your day. Give them the love and attention they deserve with this final mobility exercise.
- Stand tall, feet hip-width apart with your arms along the sides of your body, palms facing forward.
- Inhale, lift your toes at once, heels pressing down the mat.
- Exhale, slowly press each of your toes back to the ground, beginning with the pinky toes, and ending with the big toes.
- Do this for a total of six rounds.
- If you are experiencing balance difficulties, use a chair or do this while facing the wall. Push both hands against it to serve as support.
- Enjoy this exercise and give your toes some good lovin’. The toes are the farthest part of our body within reach, hence the least amount of awareness we give. Can you even imagine yourself moving with an injured toe or toes? Ouch!