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Range of motion, or ROM, is the degree of movement that occurs at a joint. ROM is individual to each specific joint and affected by several factors, including muscular strength, age, sex and disease. The American College of Sports Medicine notes that reductions in ROM are often evident by the third decade of life and progress with aging. Knowledge of the two types of ROM, passive and active, is helpful in maintaining and improving a healthy ROM in your joints.
Active range of motion, or AROM, is the range of flexibility in a joint reached by voluntary movement. AROM occurs when you stretch forward to touch your toes. In contrast, passive range of motion, or PROM, is the range that can be achieved by external means such as another person or a device. A trainer pressing into your leg to stretch your hamstring is an example of PROM.
Significance of Active Range of Motion
In everyday settings, emphasis is on active range of motion -- how far you can move on your own behalf. A trainer may assess your AROM before beginning an exercise program to determine your starting point and then monitor your progression. Because AROM requires effort from the supporting muscles of the joint, it can help improve muscular fitness and the overall integrity of the target joint. AROM is an important component in every well-rounded fitness program.
Significance of Passive Range of Motion
Passive range of motion is generally reserved for clinical settings. PROM is primarily used when an individual is unable to move a part of the body on their own such as when a severe injury or a physically debilitating disease is involved. In such an instance, a medical professional moves the patient's body segment through its range of motion.
Flexibility training can help improve ROM in nearly every joint. Prior to performing your flexibility routine, begin with a five- to 10-minute warm-up to increase muscle temperature and prepare the muscles for stretching. Static stretching as well as more dynamic forms of stretching such as yoga and pilates can help improve flexibility, and thereby ROM. Incorporate some kind of flexibility into your workout routine at least two to three days per week, but ideally on five to seven days.