Mobility vs. Stability: Achieving a Balance

As an aquatic therapy specialist, I often speak to my clients of the dichotomy between gravity and buoyancy. Equally important is striking the right balance between mobility and stability. I see this all the time with new clients. Some are very flexible, but lack strength and stability, so they’re frequently injured. Others are strong and stable, but lack flexibility which can lead to muscle and joint stiffness and sometimes injury.

Mobility is defined as the range of uninhibited movement around a joint. Joint Stability is basically the ability to maintain or control joint movement or position. Stability is achieved by the coordinating actions of surrounding tissues and the neuromuscular system.

Fortunately, an imbalance between mobility and stability can be overcome through consistent, quality training. Aquatic yoga, tai chi and Pilates, for example, are wonderful for increasing both flexibility and core stability and land-based yoga and weight training is very helpful in enhancing overall strength and stability of muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints.

This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to incorporate a variety of physical activities into your fitness program. Unfortunately, most people tend to gravitate toward what they enjoy – and that’s usually what they’re good at, not necessarily what they need to improve upon.

Establishing a balance between the need for stability in some of the major joints of the body and mobility in others is critical for healthful, pain-free movement. For example, the lumbar spine needs stability which the hip joints need to be mobile. The knee joints, on the other hand, need stability, while ankles need mobility. Think of a race walker – whose hips swivel back while their knees are very stable, with very little flexion. In fact, one of the rules of race walking is to keep one knee straight at all times – which requires hip mobility. The lumbar spine also requires stability to keep the race walker’s form.

Finding an ideal balance between stability and mobility is not just important with the physical body, but also in living life itself. Flexibility without stability can be a bit reckless, while too much stability without spontanaity, leads to stagnation and boredom.

Be Well,

Carolyn

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