Social media isn’t typically a place that rewards subtlety. But Jacob VanDenMeerendonk, DPT, went viral last year with a video of just three simple moves: He reaches one elbow overhead while sitting cross-legged, then swings one leg behind him and leans over the other, then presses his chest up into a version of upward dog. The short mobility sequence, meant to be done before bed, drew more than 10 million views. And he’s not alone in seeing followers flock to mobility work. “There's a lot of influencers that usually just did, you know, bodybuilding, their shirts always off like a fitness model, but then all of a sudden they break it down and they're like, ‘But you need to do your mobility,’” says Dr. VanDenMeerendonk.
Fitfluencers and desk workers alike are finally acknowledging mobility as an essential ingredient of a well-rounded fitness routine, right up there with strength training, cardio, and flexibility. Defined as a joint’s ability to move actively through a range of motion, mobility has long been part of modalities like yoga and Pilates. Think of the spinal mobility involved in a cat-cow or thread-the-needle. Even an old-fashioned squat challenges ankle mobility; a lunge works hip mobility. What’s new is the amount of attention and intention given to this fitness pillar. Because as our lives have grown more stationary and our bodies more stiff, mobility training offers the kind of gentle relief our achy joints crave.