The importance of hip exercises
It is very important to exercise your hips! Hips are one of the most common joints in the body to become stiff as we get older. If your hips stiffen over time it can be a cause of osteoarthritis and an eventual hip replacement may be required. So, keeping your hips mobile, strong and healthy is vital in your overall health management.
Hip exercising is a key aspect in preventing hip problems as we age. Nutrition and genetics contribute greatly to this also. So how do we exercise our hips? What should you do?
Prevention is always better than cure. It is advisable to exercise your hips from a young age to prevent hip stiffness and injury. However, it is never too late! So if you don’t have hip symptoms, starting exercising now would be a great time to start! If you have hip stiffness and symptoms I would advise you to seek a chartered physiotherapist’s or physical therapist’s advice before you embark on hip exercising, as exercises may worsen your hip pain if you have an existing injury.
There are three types of hip exercises.
Different types of Hip Exercise
General exercise: - your hips need to move through their range of movement frequently to ensure their health and good function. This movement will help to maintain the movement of your hips as you get older. It will help to stimulate the movement and function of the synovial fluid that surrounds your hip joint. The health of this fluid is vital to the health of your joint.
Regular weight-bearing movement throughout the range of your hip movements will improve the quality and function of the synovial fluid and this in turn will enhance the health of your hip joint. Commonly I see hips stiffening and malfunctioning in people who sit a lot. When we sit our hips are in one position and the muscles around them stiffen over time too.
If we fail to counteract this stiffness with regular exercising this stiffness will become structural and difficult to reverse, often resulting in hip problems. If you sit a lot hip exercises are essential in the prevention of hip pain and dysfunction.
There are many options of exercise to consider for this but my general exercise of choice for the hips is swimming or long-stride walking. A combination of the two is preferable as walking is weight bearing and swimming is not. Both these exercises will exercise your hips in a general manner well. I advise 30 minutes walking three times a week or 30 minutes of swimming twice a week as a minimum!
Strength exercises: - your hips need to be strong to support the weight of your body as you move. The hip is a ball and socket joint which means there is a ball of bone within a socket of bone. The hip ball pushes up into the socket of bone so if your muscles are not strong to support the hip the ball will press too hard into the socket. Over time this may lead to wear and tear and eventual arthritis.
So, keeping your hip strong is vital to hip health! Although general exercise such as walking and swimming will help to strengthen your hips I consider specific strength exercises to be important also. The muscles around your hip that need to be strong are your hip flexors, gluteal muscles, and quadriceps mainly.
However, depending on your posture type will dictate which of these require your attention most. We are all different so always seek an expert’s advice before you embark on a hip strengthening program.
I advise Pilates for hip strengthening as the range of exercises in a well-instructed Pilates class covers all aspects of hip strength and variability.
If you have stiff or painful hips always do Pilates under the guidance of a chartered physiotherapist or physical therapist as some Pilates exercises may worsen your hip pain and stiffness.
Hip Stretches: - your hips need to be flexible to ensure that your back or knees are not placed under excess pressure. Hip stretches are good for this. Pilates and yoga stretch the hips greatly but again too much stretching can cause hip problems.
The key to hip flexibility is this - the range of hip flexibility you have or achieve must be supported by good strength of your muscles in all positions of your hip joint movement. Often, I see people with hip pain who are very flexible in their hips. Their problem is that they do not have sufficient strength of the appropriate muscles to support this flexible movement range.
So, always seek a balanced program of flexibility and strength to ensure the overall health of your hips. One more thing, before you embark on hip exercises always have a biomechanical assessment of your feet. Often people with flat feet develop hip stiffness and dysfunction. The position of your feet greatly influences the mechanics of your hips.
If you have hip pain and have flat feet, consider orthotics prescribes by a well qualified therapist in this field. Physiotherapist and podiatrists are my therapists of choice in this area. If your children have flat feet have them assessed at an early age as good footwear may correct their flat feet if detected early enough.
While the content and materials contained in the articles on this website have been written & researched by Sally Ann Quirke, a professional, practising & fully qualified Chartered Physiotherapist (Physical Therapist) based in Ireland, they are provided for general information and educational purposes only. They do not constitute medical advice on any particular individual situation. Please see your Chartered Physiotherapist or other medical practitioner for full and individual consultation.
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