Don’t let arthritis slow you down. Being stiff and mobility-challenged can impact your quality of life, and your longevity. Mobility and flexibility are essential components of long-term health. They allow us to move freely, perform those tasks of day-to-day living easily, without discomfort, and engage in physical activities that keep us fit and healthy.
If you have arthritis, you may already struggle with stiffness and lack of mobility, which can significantly impact your quality of life. In this blog post, we will discuss why mobility and being limber are important to long-term health, how to test for it, and some simple steps to improve flexibility and movement.
What does being limber mean?
Being limber means having flexible muscles and joints that allow for a wide range of motion. When we are limber, our muscles and joints can move freely without any pain or discomfort. This is important because it enables us to perform daily tasks such as bending down to pick up something from the floor, reaching for objects on high shelves, or simply walking without any difficulty.
Here’s one example.
Think about the last time you got up off a low chair – difficult or easy? Did you need help – either from a person or an aid, like a walking stick? In a podcast I listened to years ago, Dr Mark Hyman pointed out that the inability to easily get off a chair, off the floor, or even up from the toilet is often the primary reason an older person gets moved to a care facility. Just strengthening your core, your quad muscles, and your hamstrings, on a regular basis – can improve your ability to stand up on your own, without needing anything to lean on. Read this enlightening article on how exercise and strengthening reduced fall risks for older women.
Why is mobility important to long-term health?
Mobility is important to long-term health because it helps us maintain our independence and quality of life as we age. As we get older, our muscles and joints naturally become stiffer, which can lead to a loss of mobility and flexibility. This can make it difficult to perform daily tasks, engage in physical activity, and even lead to falls and injuries.
Besides just maintaining our independence – which most of us really want - mobility is also important for preventing chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Regular physical activity, which requires mobility and flexibility, has been shown to reduce the risk of these diseases and improve overall health. This article shares a fascinating study of the impact of exercise on your mitochondrial health.
Read our previous blog about the importance of exercise for arthritis sufferers.
How to test for mobility?
Standing up is just one way to test your flexibility and determine how limber you are. There are several more ideas.
The sit-and-reach test measures flexibility in the hamstrings and lower back. To perform this test, sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Reach forward as far as you can towards your toes without bending your knees. The distance you can reach is a measure of your flexibility.
The shoulder flexibility test measures the range of motion in your shoulders. To perform this test, stand with your arms at your sides and try to touch your fingertips together behind your back. If you cannot touch your fingertips together, it may indicate limited shoulder mobility.
The hip mobility test measures the range of motion in your hips.
To perform this test, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift one leg off the ground and bring it towards your chest as far as you can without any pain or discomfort. Repeat with the other leg. The distance you can bring your leg towards your chest is a measure of your hip mobility.
The Mayo Clinic wrote this article a while back, and it’s still relevant today, as it addresses the positive impact exercise and movement have on your stiffness and immobility.
Years ago, I remember my parents saying that when you get to a certain age, when you bend down to get something, you wonder what else you can do while you’re down there! If this is you, start practicing bending, squatting, getting up and down off the floor without help.
Simple steps to improve flexibility and become more limber.
If you are struggling with stiffness and have noticed you are less limber than when you were younger, there are several simple steps you can take to improve your flexibility and movement. These include
Stretching: Stretching is an excellent way to improve flexibility and mobility. Try to stretch every day, focusing on the areas where you feel the most stiffness. I’ve recently started stretching to touch my toes right before I climb into bed every day. It’s encouraging as I am able to gradually close the gap between how far I can bend and where my toes are!
Low-impact exercise: Low-impact exercises such as walking, swimming, and yoga are great for improving mobility without putting too much stress on your joints. I’ve learned from my physio therapist that walking on the earth, as opposed to concrete, or even on a treadmill, is best for the health of your joints and supporting ligaments. So, as easy as it is to walk on the sidewalk or paved path, get off the beaten track whenever you can. There are some also great strength and mobility exercises described in this article at Experience Life magazine.
Using props: If you are in pain, using props such as blocks or straps can help you perform stretches without aggravating your condition. Get yourself a yoga strap, for example, to practice lifting one leg at a time while stretching. Here’s a wonderful article with several different exercises to try with a yoga strap.
Massage: Massage can help loosen tight muscles and improve circulation, which can enhance flexibility and mobility. Make sure find a massage therapist who can give you gentle and healing-supporting massage. Ev
en though you may feel a bit sore the next day, if you have pain beyond that, it’s an indication that the massage is too aggressive and is actually aggravating the painful joint.
Heat therapy: Applying heat to stiff joints can help relax muscles and improve mobility. Try using a heating pad or taking a warm bath. (
Being limber is about mobility and flexibility. These are essential components of long-term health, even or rather, especially, if you have arthritis. Being mobile and limber can help you maintain your independence, prevent chronic diseases, and improve overall health. By testing for mobility, incorporating simple steps such as stretching and low-impact exercise into your routine, and using props when necessary, you can improve your flexibility and movement regardless of age or condition.
When you do this, and you use Haraka on a regular basis, you will start to feel like a whole new person!
Remember to consult with your doctor before starting any new supplements, exercise, or stretching routine.
Here’s to YOUR limber life!