Hip health is all too easy to take for granted – at least until one or both hips start to hurt!
The truth is, the hips have a very difficult job to do, supporting our whole weight as we bend and sit and stand and pivot and move about throughout our day.
Hip pain can get triggered from something as simple as wearing ill-fitting shoes. But more commonly, hip pain is caused by a cumulative lack of strength and conditioning in the muscles, tendons and ligaments that help this incredibly complex joint do its job.
Even mild hip pain should never be ignored. Taking a proactive approach to hip health can prevent injury and guard against falls, fractures, and broken hips.
In this article, we introduce you to a basic overview of the hip joint and share healthy hip exercises you can start doing immediately to reduce pain, improve coordination, enhance balance, and increase flexibility.
Understanding Ball and Socket Joint Mobility
Most joints in the human body fall into the category of “synovial joints.” As BBC Science explains, when they are working as designed, synovial joints are designed to be highly mobile, flexible joints.
Synovial joints get their name from the fluid that runs through them. This synovial fluid is like a lubricant, allowing the joint to move in a surprisingly wide variety of ways.
There are several types of synovial joints, but perhaps the best-known type is the so-called “ball and socket joint.” The human body has two ball and socket joints: the shoulder and the hip.
As BrainLab outlines, the hip structure includes bone, cartilage, muscle, tendons, ligaments, synovial fluid and a vascular blood supply.
As the AARP points out, every year an estimated 370,000 Americans undergo hip replacement surgery. For 10 percent of these patients, one hip replacement surgery will not be enough, and they will have to go through a second hip replacement.
And for a smaller group of patients aged 65 and older, a hip fracture or break is one of the leading causes of mortality – even if the patient is healthy otherwise.
There is no doubt statistics like these can be startlingly scary. But when you understand what is at stake, you are also much better equipped to take a proactive approach to maintaining hip health, strength, and mobility throughout life.
We highly recommend you incorporate these seven keys to healthy hips and start adding the exercises you will learn about here into your daily routine right away.
SAFETY NOTE: As always, if you are under a doctor’s care for the management of any health condition, always talk with your doctor before changing anything in your regular health routine.
7 Keys to Healthy Hips at Any Age and Stage of Life
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that hip health is a vital component of overall good health and longevity.
These seven keys to healthy hips can be an ongoing support to you at any age and stage of life.
- Aim to achieve your ideal body weight.
It just makes sense that the more weight your joints must support the more work they must do and the faster they will begin to wear out.
Work with your doctor to identify your ideal body weight for your age and stage of life. Then aim to move into that weight range to take extra pressure off your hip joints.
As WebMD explains, every single pound you shed will instantly remove four pounds of pressure from your hip joints.
- Eat a hip-healthy diet.
Eating the right foods can ease hip joint inflammation and aid in injury recovery. A hip-healthy diet will be rich in essential fatty acids (both omega-3 and omega-6), whole grains, nutrient-rich fresh produce, and lean protein sources.
Adding delicious spices with known anti-inflammatory properties such as turmeric, black pepper, ginger, rosemary, and cumin can boost the impact of a whole food hip-healthy diet.
- Take time to evaluate ergonomics.
Whether you work in a traditional office setting or you are working remotely, attention to ergonomics can make the difference between hip health and pain that leads to stiffness, injury and potentially immobility.
Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Today explains how the N-E-W method can help you adjust your ergonomics in your office or home office to ease hip discomfort.
N-E-W stands for neutral posture, eye and elbow height and work area. If your employer offers ergonomic benefits, ask for a consultation to make sure your workstation promotes whole body and hip joint health.
- Maintain a healthy posture.
Cleveland Clinic emphasizes the vital importance of keeping a healthy posture while standing and sitting.
Proper alignment ensures your weight is evenly distributed, with each joint bearing its share (and only its share) of the total load. This reduces strain on the hips.
- Make motion a priority.
Motion is an antidote to stiffness in any joint, including the hip joint. In other words, the more you move, the more you can move.
Motion doesn’t have to be extreme or excessive to support healthy hips. Just taking breaks every 20 minutes or so to stretch, get the blood flowing and take a few deep breaths can go a long way towards keeping your hips balanced and healthy.
- Listen to your body’s messages.
Prevention outlines one of the key ways to sidestep hip injury before it happens: simply listen to your body and pay attention to its messages.
Occasional hip pain may be telling you to avoid certain types of postures, sitting positions, activities, or exercises.
Chronic hip pain is telling you to seek out a health expert to address the problem before it worsens.
- Wear the right footwear.
Finally, the simple shoe may be the least-appreciated hip hero of all time.
Wearing the right shoes can promote healthy posture, even weight distribution, balance, stability and coordination. On the other hand, wearing the wrong shoes can quickly undo all the good you may be doing for your hips elsewhere.
4 Healthy Hip Exercises to Improve Hip Strength, Flexibility and Mobility
These four exercises can get you started on the road to healthier, stronger, more flexible and balanced hips. Aim to do all four at least once per day and twice if time permits.
- Healthy hip hinge.
The hip hinge is an exercise you can do literally anywhere. All you have to do is stand up straight with a good posture, knees slightly bent and both feet flat on the floor.
Then hinge your upper body forward until your torso is as close to parallel with the floor as you can (make sure your upper back stays flat).
Do 10 of these at a time.
- Knee raise and leg extension while seated.
This two-part hip health exercise is also great to do during your breaks at work and anytime you are sitting for an extended period of time.
Sit in an ergonomically sound position on a chair with knees bent and both feet flat on the floor. Hold onto the sides of the chair to steady yourself. Raise one foot six inches off the floor and hold for a count of 1-2-3. Lower that leg and repeat on the other side.
Then switch and instead of bending your leg, holding your leg out straight and parallel to the floor. Hold for a count of 1-2-3 and then lower that leg and repeat on the other side.
You can do 10 reps of each exercise with each leg.
- Standing hip extension back and side.
For this hip exercise you will need a sturdy chair as a prop. You can do this exercise with or without light ankle weights.
Stand behind the back of the chair and place your hands on the back of the chair. Keep both feet firmly on the floor about hip width apart with knees slightly bent (not locked).
Extend one leg straight out behind you and hold for a count of 1-2-3-4-5. Then repeat with the other leg.
Then stand beside the chair and put one hand on the chair back for support. Extend one leg straight out to the side to a 45-degree angle and hold for a count of 1-2-3-4-5. Then repeat with the other leg.
Do 10 repetitions of each leg for each exercise.
- Half hip squat.
You may not love squats (who does?) but your hips sure do. You may want to use the chair again for support.
Start standing up with your feet flat on the ground and with each foot even with each shoulder. Keep your back straight while you bend your knees so that the toes are just above and as close to parallel to your knees as you can do safely. Hold for a count of 1-2-3-4-5.
Start with five repetitions and work your way up to 10.
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