These everyday moves will make hip tightness and low back pain a thing of the past.
Having tight hips is a common complaint, especially among adults who find themselves in a seated position for extended periods of time—a posture that can cause the hip flexor muscles to become short and stiff. Adults—women, in particular—also tend to hold a "tremendous amount of stress in [their] hips," says Stefanie Corgel, certified strength and conditioning coach and group fitness instructor in Los Angeles.
That's why it's important not only to stretch your hips, but to do active hip exercises to improve strength, flexibility, and mobility. What's the difference between a hip stretch and a hip exercise, and between hip flexibility versus mobility? A simple distinction: think passive versus active. "Hip flexibility is defined as length through range of motion while mobility points to more targeted strength and control of the muscle as it completes a movement pattern," Corgel explains.
Mobility is just as important as flexibility, especially as you age. All of the activities you love doing—walking, cycling, dancing, or playing with your kids and pets—require joint mobility as a foundation. "Over time, if joints lack mobility, your performance and ability to improve is greatly inhibited," Corgel says. The less you move, use, and strengthen certain body parts, the less likely they are to work optimally. This can also cause you to experience more aches and pains from everyday activities (even from just sitting!).
To keep your hips (and their surrounding muscles) strong and mobile, Corgel shares five hip exercises you can do anytime. Spend five to 10 minutes working through these hip-specific mobility exercises daily, and you'll start to notice improved range of motion and hopefully less hip and lower back pain (which often stems from tight hips!) pretty quickly.
Simple Hip Exercises to Try Anywhere
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width. Turn your feet out at a diagonal and make sure your knees align vertically with your ankles. Keeping weight in your heels, bend your knees and slowly lower your butt to the floor—as low as you can comfortably go. Hold this low squat position for about 30 seconds, using your elbows to press your knees gently outward. Release to a standing position and shake your legs out. Repeat five times.
Tabletop Hip Circles
Start on the floor on your hands and knees, stacking shoulders over wrists and hips over knees. Keeping your pelvis level with the floor, engage your right glute and lift your right knee out to the side (think: dog at a fire hydrant). Draw a circle in the air with your right knee five times, keeping your right knee bent. It's OK if you can't lift your knee up very high—it's better to do circles lower to the floor than to try to lift your leg higher and have your back and pelvis tilt to the side. Switch the direction of the circles and repeat five more times. Then switch legs and repeat. Do this one to two times per each side.
Kneeling Lunge to Half Split Rocks
Start by kneeling with both knees on the floor. First move into a kneeling lunge: Step your right foot forward until your right thigh is parallel to the floor (about one or two feet in front). Let your left leg extend behind you, place the top of your left foot on the floor, and reach your arms straight overhead (without scrunching up your shoulders). Then move into a half split: Slowly shift your weight back, sending your butt toward your left heel, as your right toes come up off the floor and your right leg is now straight (right heel should still be planted on the floor). At the same time, bend forward over your right leg and touch your hands to either side of your right foot. Move back and forth with control between these two positions five times before repeating the sequence with the other leg in front.
Sit on the floor with feet on the floor in front of you, knees bent, and legs open slightly wider than your hips. Place your hands on the floor on either side of your hips for support, or hold your arms out in front of you for more of a challenge. Slowly let your knees drop to one side, creating 90 degree angles at your hips and knees.
Making sort of a wind-shield-wiper motion with your knees, rotate them back up to center then slowly let them knees drop to the opposite side. Rotate back and forth with control for about 30 seconds, rest, and repeat one or two more times.
Standing Leg Swings
Stand with your feet together next to a wall or doorway that you can hold with your hand for balance. From this position, swing your inside leg forward and backward with control, making sure not to swing so far forward or backward that you can't keep a relatively neutral/straight back (no need to hurt yourself or impress the Rockettes). Repeat five times forward and backward.
Then stand facing the wall and repeat five more times, swinging the same leg from side to side. Switch sides and repeat the same sequence with the opposite leg.