Movement Hygiene: What is it and why should you care?

Abigail Ladd, Health Coach:

Now more than ever, we all understand the importance of daily hygiene. Keeping your hands clean, covering your mouth, brushing your teeth, etc. and we understand that daily hygiene improves your health. 

However, when it comes to daily movement people tend to only think about “exercise” as only movement that matters for your health. As a group fitness and yoga instructor, I cannot tell you how many people think movement isn’t beneficial unless it’s hard and you get a “good sweat”. 

Well, I’m here to inform you, some of the most beneficial movement for your long-term health involves slow, methodical work on joint mobility, which comes from daily stretching. This is Movement Hygiene

What is Joint Mobility? 

The ability of a joint to move within its natural range of motion before becoming restricted by surrounding tissues (muscles, ligaments, tendons, facia).

Why is Joint Mobility Important? 

Joints are where two bones come together and are locations that help your body change shape. We change shape constantly: sitting down, standing up, walking, going up or down stairs, picking up a laundry basket and all of this movement depends on the ability of our joints to move (extend, flex, rotate, etc.). 

If your joints cannot move properly –> you posture with suffer –> which will mess with your form –> which will cause muscular imbalances and injury –> if you’re injured you can’t exercise. 

Joint mobility is the foundation your physical health is built on. It’s hard to run, bike or swim with stiff joints. Ya feel me? 

Joints rely on movement. Unlike muscles, joints don’t have a direct blood supply, which means there isn’t a super highway removing waste products that build up (creating stiffness and swelling). Most joints rely on synovial fluid (the fluid that surrounds the joints to prevent irritation while moving) to help “wash” away waste product build up. 

If joints are where two bones come together, without synovial fluid our bones would rub against each other causing friction and massive irritation. (Anyone who has bone on bone joint pain understands how painful this is). The more me move our joints, the more fluid our body produces to prevent this from happening. If we stop moving, joint health degenerates. 

Big joints, like the hip and shoulder joint, are very mobile, compared to your toe joints, which means they are more susceptible to injury. It also means many more tissues (muscles, ligaments, tendons, facia) connect to them or surround them. 

  • If these tissues are tight, they inhibit the ability of that joint to move effectively. Tight hip flexors (front of the hip) are often the source of low-back pain. 
  • If these tissues are loose, they allow the joint to move too much causing strains, dislocations, or tears in surrounding tissues. Hamstring strains are a common injury and an indication that your quadriceps are so tight, your hamstrings have been lengthening to compensate.  

Okay, so what exactly is Movement Hygiene? 

Hopefully, by now your sold. So, what do you do? 

Movement Hygiene is a daily stretching routine. It can be done anytime, anywhere. Personally, I prefer the morning. I sip coffee as I wake my brain and my body up with some stretching. 

Some of you might be asking, “Yeah okay Abbie, but what stretches should I do?” 

Well, I usually advise my clients to start small:

Think about warm up stretches you would do on sports teams in high school. Add them all together and hold each stretch for 30 seconds or more, making sure to breathe as you go. Once you’ve developed a routine for about 2 or 3 weeks. Begin to look into mobility routines on the internet. THERE ARE ENDLESS! 

For those of you who like yoga, this daily routine could simply look like a mini morning flow with some positional holds: I highly recommend Yoga with Adriane on Youtube. Its free and fun! 

For those of you who already have stretching routines post workout, consider changing up your stretches and exploring other stretching tools. I recommend Vigor Ground Fitness in Seattle as a resource for excellent mobility drills and flows. I also recommend adding muscle balls, foam rollers, pso rite

Bottom line, improved joint mobility enhances your ability to move your body freely, which is something we take for granted until we can’t. Movement hygiene helps protect against injury, muscular imbalances, improves posture and range of motion, and ensures the health of your joints. 

If you want to learn more about Abbie and her health coaching check out her website at: abigailladdcoach.comApril 26, 2020