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4 Gentle Mobility Exercises a Trainer Says You Should Be Doing

Just five minutes a day of these mobility exercises could mean years of healthier movement (and lower risk of pain), says celeb trainer Charlee Atkins.

You love walking; you regularly crush cardio. Maybe you work in some resistance training and rest a day or two each week—maybe it’s even “active rest” with some yoga or other gentle stretching.

If this fitness routine sounds even close to yours, good on you—and now, there’s another smart way to up-level your long-term wellness through movement. “Everybody should be working on their mobility,” says Charlee Atkins, an Asian-American fitness professional and creator of the popular app, Le Sweat TV. “The reason I coach my clients to do mobility is that as we get older, we kind of want to do things that are going to help us be able to move and have increased mobility as we age. That’s why it’s important for everyone to have a mobility routine—but especially as we get older.”

According to Atkins, though, there’s often confusion around what it means to target your mobility. “The question that I get a lot of as a trainer is, What’s the difference between mobility and flexibility?” she says. “Ultimately, flexibility is the ability to do a movement, and mobility is the ability to control yourself while doing a movement. So the main difference between the two is control.”

The Healthy @Reader’s Digest caught up with Atkins to learn about some of the best exercises you can do to improve, or maintain, your mobility. “I have a mobility program that lasts five to 10 minutes,” which, Atkins tells us, she thinks everybody should be doing each day.

Atkins has partnered with Citi to celebrate the Citi Custom Cash Card that gives you cash back for working out at fitness clubs and with streaming services, among other lifestyle activities. So at the gym, at home, outdoors, or anywhere you get moving, here are this celeb trainer’s favorite exercises to amp your mobility game.

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illustrated gif showing 90-90 mobility exerciseMae Lander/The Healthy

The 90-90

The 90-90 stretch is traditionally done seated on the floor, but note that a good way to modify this stretch is by elevating your sitting position on a chair or yoga block.

Mobility benefits:

This stretch targets the hips and lower back. The 90-90 stretch helps decrease muscle tension and increase your range of motion at the joint, which can help limit pain or decrease your chance of experiencing an injury.

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. Start with both knees bent in a 90-degree angle—both going in the same direction—while you flex both.
  2. Sit up tall and keep your back straight. You’ll get a feel: depending on where you want to feel the stretch will determine which way you angle your torso.
  3. To increase the intensity of this stretch, you can intermittently drive the shin down in the ground for about 10 to 15 seconds at a time. Just listen to your body and don’t push yourself to do anything that feels too uncomfortable.
  4. Passively hold the stretch for 60 seconds, and intermittently contract and then relax your muscles for an additional 60 seconds for a total of two minutes.

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illustrated gif showing ankle stretch mobility exerciseMae Lander/The Healthy

Ankle Stretch

Mobility benefits:

The ankle stretch exercise targets the ankle to help alleviate tension experienced at the knee.

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. Start standing next to a wall, with one toe touching the wall.
  2. Bring the toe of your back foot to match the heel of your front foot so that you’re standing one foot’s length away from the wall.
  3. Push your knee past your toes, keeping the heel on the ground until you feel a stretch in your calf.
  4. Passively stretch for 60 seconds and intermittently contract and relax for an additional 60 seconds for a total of two minutes. You can increase the intensity of the stretch by intermittently pushing the foot into the ground like you are pushing the gas pedal in a car for 10 to 15 seconds at a time.

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illustrated gif showing cat-cow mobility exerciseMae Lander/The Healthy

Cat-Cow

Mobility benefits:

The cat-cow exercise targets the spine to help relieve lower back pain. It is also a good core-strengthening move.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. Start in a quadruped (all-fours) position, toes tucked under (as above). Position your shoulders over your wrists, and hips over your knees.
  2. Flex the spine by pushing into the ground and pulling your belly button to the sky, raising your back.
  3. Slowly extend the spine by doing the opposite motion, pushing the belly button to the ground to create curve dip in the lower back. Try to expand the chest.
  4. Repeat the movement for 10 reps, or a total of two minutes.

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illustrated gif showing shoulder CARs mobility exerciseMae Lander/The Healthy

Shoulder CARs (Controlled Articular Rotations)

Mobility benefits

Shoulder CARs target the upper back, neck, and shoulders. “I think in general, we all have some mobility issues,” Atkins says. “Our shoulders in general are where you start to have specific mobility drills for different types of movements.”

 Step-by-step instructions:

  1. Begin on all fours with your fingertips pointed to your sides.
  2. Draw a box with your shoulder joint, which will move the scapulae (shoulder blades) on the back, while you the arms locked. Start with a shrug—then second, push the ground away. Third, depress your shoulders (pull them down), then pull your shoulder blades together.
  3. Repeat for 45 seconds in each direction.

We hope these mobility moves deliver all the good feels! For healthy inspo delivered daily, sign up for The Healthy @Reader’s Digest newsletter. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and keep reading:

Jennifer Huizen
Jennifer is a freelance writer and editor who has worked with many online sites, including Medical News Today, Healthline, Scientific American, Audubon, Love Nature, Yale Medical Magazine, and Mongabay. She covers all things science, but her passion projects usually relate to the environment, animals, and mental health. Jennifer holds a BS Hons Biology, a BA Hons English, and an MS in Journalism from Columbia University. Originally from Nova Scotia, Canada, Jennifer now lives in the U.S. with her absurdly-unique rescue cat Jim Carrey and a jungle's worth of houseplants.
Adam Meyer
Adam is a health writer, certified holistic nutritionist, and 100% plant-based athlete. In addition to The Healthy, he has published with outlets such as The Beet, Livestrong, and others. With his wife and their two kids, Adam lives in British Columbia, Canada. That’s where you can usually find him running mountain trails, working out in his home gym, or writing in a coffee shop.