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How clothing affects movement and function

I often have conversations with clients about clothing choices as part of their rehab program.

This might seem a bit random as at the end of the day - I am an exercise instructor, not a fashion guru.

However, I do genuinely believe that the clothes you wear on a regular basis really can affect the way your body functions.


Areas affected: knees and hips, circulation and abdominal/core function

Yeah sure, so skinny jeans look great, but have you ever got stuck half way down to the floor trying to pick something up, because your knees and hips won't bend any further?

Could you sit on the floor cross-legged comfortably in skinny jeans, or would you notice a throbbing sensation in your legs eventually because they've cut off the circulation?

Can you see how wearing something that's really tight around your mid-section and legs can actually restrict your body's ability to move freely and, therefore function as it should?

Skinny jeans tend to have quite tight waist bands too, don't they? So, if you have any issues in your pelvic floor or core unit eg abdominal separation, you can't expect your core to function at it's best when you're effectively squeezing in the middle, like a tube of toothpaste, huh?


Areas affected: core/abdominals, pelvic alignment, natural gait, legs

Though your feet and pelvic floor are quite far apart, wearing the wrong shoes can wreak havoc on your pelvic floor. The biggest offender is high heels, which negatively change our posture. The unnatural positions high heels put you in mean your muscles have to compensate, which makes them tighter. Flat shoes help your pelvic floor relax and stay properly aligned.


Areas affected: core/abdominals, pelvic alignment, natural gait

Ok, not all skirts are created equal, but if you're wearing one that's reasonably fitted, and sits just above the knee when you're sitting down, what do you automatically do with your knees?

You squeeze them together, or you cross your legs, don't you?

It's considered more lady-like to do so, because you don't want someone looking up your skirt, huh?

If you wear or have worn skirts a lot, or like to wear a tight fitting dress every now and then, you can see how these restrict your range of movement and/or alter what it is you do with your legs in order to conform to wearing them.

If they're quite tight fitting around the waist and/or thighs how easy is it to maintain ideal stride length when you're walking?

Quite hard, particularly if the skirt/dresses hem is tight and sits near the knee, because it's impossible to move the legs through their full range, which inhibits your natural gait, and pelvic floor function too if you want me to add that into the mix.

As a side note if you have children who are girls: am I in favour of sending girls to school in trousers? Well, what do you think...?

Cultural habits are learned very early on in life, and if you want your daughter to grow up as a lady and follow in your footsteps, then you'll probably have to tell her at some point to stop flashing her knickers when she's at play, and get to her to conform, for this very reason...


Areas affected: breathing, core, pelvic floor, diaphragm and internal organs

When wearing for prolonged periods you cannot help but do shallow breathing as the diaphragm's movement is hugely affected, this will add to anxiety and tension in body.

The diaphragm and stomach contents forced upwards and can lead to digestive issues

The abdominal contents and pelvic floor are forced downwards- increasing your chances of ab separation and prolapse as you increase intraabdominsl pressure


Areas affected: breathing, pectoral muscles

If you've ever been to any of my classes, you'll know I teach you to breathe into your rib cage an expand the lungs into the thoracic cavity.

Which area of your body is the tightest part of the bra wrapped around?

You guessed it: the ribs.

Also, if I told you that your breasts actually have suspensory ligaments in them which are designed to hold up the breast tissue, what would your thoughts be on that?

By putting your breasts in a bra, means these suspensory ligaments that run from the armpit to the breast tissue are actually no longer being used to their full potential.

The bra holds your breast tissue up, but it also switches off the function of your ligaments.

I'm not saying you have to ditch bras completely, but the type of bra you wear can really affect the function of your breath and your breasts.

It's never too late to change your clothing habits for the sake of your posture.

Fashion does have a lot to answer for: heeled/pointed shoes, off-the-shoulder tops, shoulder bags, belts, bulky scarves, hoodies - these are just another set of random articles of clothing and accessories that can restrict your body's ability to move freely.

Do you need to slob around in lycra all day like I do? Yes or no - that's your choice.

But, I'd urge you to consider the next time you put a piece of clothing on that if it requires frequent adjustment and/or doesn't pass the reach up over your head and/or full squat test - it may be harder on your body than you think.


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