No matter what your definition of true health is, it has to include functional mobility to be valid and optimal.
When we talk about functional mobility, we are referring to the ability to do our everyday tasks using a full and normal range of motion in our joints, and adequate muscle strength to move us. We are not talking about lifting a small car out of a snow bank or running an ultramarathon (although that would be nice). We need, deserve and were designed to do “normal” movements and activities with a reasonable amount of effort and ability. We were designed to squat using our hips and legs, we were designed to bend and rotate in our spine, to lift or push overhead, to pull, to walk long distances and to sprint very short distances.
The problem with today’s lifestyle is that the ability to perform these key movements has been lost in today’s sitting society because of neglect. People are not only less healthy then they should be, with rising rates of heart disease, diabetes and cancers due to lack of fitness, but they are also getting injured simply bending over to pick up a sock! Not a day goes by where a patient doesn’t enter our clinic with back or neck pain, and the only thing they can think of doing that contributed was brush their teeth! (or pick up a shoe, turn in a chair or other pretty benign movement).
Thirty-three percent of American adults are also completely sedentary, and more than half of adults over the age of 18 never engage in any vigorous leisure-time physical activity lasting 10 minutes or more per week.
We have simply lost the ability to move with basic functionality, leaving our spine and supporting tissues vulnerable to injury. There are many reasons why we all get into this predicament, but that doesn’t matter. The great news is that we were all born with the ability to be athletes (think of when you were a kid and how easy it was to run and play in the playground) and it is easy to regain a lot of that playful ability and functional movement. No matter what tyour age or ability is, there is the possibility with the right discipline and appropriate exercise and lifestyle changes to recover the vast majority of your ability to move properly. If we exclude the cases of catastrophic injury and pathological disease (obesity doesn’t count), anyone can get functionally fit.
One of the great systems out there to lead us is with the Crossfit movement. This is a movement that is spreading like gangbusters in the fitness world, where you need minimal equipment, only the discipline to work extremely hard for very short periods of time. Basic movements like squats, shoulder presses and short runs are examples of the various crossfit routines. I just returned from a Crossfit Mobility Certification in Toronto, taugfht by Kelly Starrett, and I have to say was bang on in terms of giving everyone thier own set of tools and techniques to keep themselves mobile and active. Plesae ask me about, I would love top help you out where you need it.
We are continuously adding our own version of functional movement exercises, somewhat like the Crossfit exercise program, to our fitness classes. These workouts will be short (10-20 minutes) but intense using prime and functional movements. Progressions can be done for various levels, there will be no excuses as they will require a minimal use of exercise equipment. The key is to be consistent with your effort to see the result. Not only will you be less likely to get hurt or succomb to life’s main diseases, you will perform better in all aspects of your life, giving you a life worth living.
As we have all heard, it is not the years in your life, but the life in your years.