Regain your functional mobility

Story by Shawna Culleton, photos by Nicole Smith

If you’re like most North American adults, the good old days of plopping down onto the floor and bouncing up again ended in your twenties or thirties. Today, your hips are tight, your knees are creaky, your ankles are stiff. Each of those 10 lbs that most Canadians gain per decade of adulthood have really started to add up—and slow you down.

If you’re struggling with functional mobility, you’re not alone. But more importantly, you’re not trapped, either! There’s nothing inevitable about loss of mobility, and the skills and strength you need to get down and back up again can all be regained.

The impact of lack of mobility

The effects on your quality of life can be far-reaching when you can’t get yourself down to the ground and up again easily. For example, lack of mobility can limit how well you perform household chores. It can also restrict your activities or hobbies, unless you protect or rebuild these skills.

Nicole Smith, an athletic therapist and owner of Revolution Rehab, says lack of mobility is a problem related to strength, flexibility and balance—“or a combination of all the above.” For example, it takes all three to crouch down safely and retrieve a dropped object—especially when you have to reach for that item, putting yourself off-balance in a low position. When we lose our strength, our flexibility and our balance, a dropped item can become a lost item.

Lack of mobility can also impact relationships. Smith says it’s not uncommon for clients at her clinic to complain about not being able to play with their children or grandchildren the way they want to.

Practice makes perfect

Using your own regular movements to build strength in your quads and glutes throughout the day will gradually build the functional fitness you need to get down and up from the floor comfortably.

“Every time you go to sit, control how you sit,” recommends Smith. “Don’t let yourself fall into the couch. Using your muscles to slowly lower yourself down to seated will naturally integrate strength-building into your daily routine. Do the same thing each time you get up again. Use the same cues to focus on slow, controlled movement when you stand, as well.”

Follow the steps in our handy guide to move safely and build your confidence. The ability to move freely is key to maintaining your independence. It gives you back the power to say yes to activities that may have slipped beyond your reach: picnics in the grass, getting down on the floor with your grandkids, that yoga or exercise class you’ve been avoiding, even everyday tasks such as using the toilet or getting in and out of the car.


Your guide to getting down, and up again

Practice the following safe and supported series of steps to improve strength, flexibility and balance. These moves can also be useful in the event that you fall or need to get up in an emergency.

1. Getting down to the floor. Pay close attention to Smith’s wide-legged stance in these photos, and the way she walks out her hands. These techniques are designed to give you the most support and balance if your popping up and down days are bygone.

2. Turning on the floor. Do this sequence in reverse order to get back up. To perform these motions, Smith uses multiple points of contact to distribute her weight and create a strong, balanced foundation. Note how she descends onto the side of her quad, and not a potentially tender kneecap!

3. Getting up from the floor. The lesson here is to brace yourself on the way up for added power and balance. Smith walks her hands up her quads for additional stability.