As we age, we experience hip pains partly due to the weakness of the hip muscles. Learning how to strengthen your hips, with hip-strengthening exercises for seniors is vital to prevent or reduce severe pain. The pain may get so severe that it results in abnormal gait, incorrect posture, or inability to stand for long without losing balance, thus affecting our activities of daily living. In fact, back pain, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, IT band syndrome, and knee pain have been associated with dysfunctional hip muscles. This to a large extent is due to the weakness of the hip stabilizers.
The hip muscles provide stability by evenly distributing the load of our torso to our lower limbs. The instability of the hip can cause an uneven distribution of weight throughout the body, thus having a detrimental effect on the spine. When the hip muscles are strong, they improve the knees’ stability and reduce knee pain, thereby enhancing the overall stability of the body.
Hip muscles are divided into four groups based on their orientation around the hip joint:
- the adductor group
- the gluteal group
- the iliopsoas group
- the lateral rotator group
All of these muscles work together in maintaining a standing posture. They enable us to stand in a correct posture by working in an integrated system with the supporting muscles of the spine, muscles of the lower leg, core, neck, and shoulder.
Over time, bony structures change, and they start breaking down faster than they form. Subsequently, the wear-and-tear our bones sustain over time takes a toll and we become more liable to injury. A good hip workout that targets these muscles can be beneficial in fall prevention, relieving aches, and makes movement easier. Below are specific hip strengthening exercises for seniors.
Hip Flexor Exercises
1. Standing Hip Flexor (SHF)
The SHF stretches the front hip flexors. It is a good exercise especially for seniors with lower back pain and beneficial for building hip flexor strength.
- Stand with your feet apart and hands on your hip.
- Step your left foot forward about a foot and a half.
- Slowly bend your left knee, and lift your right heel off the floor.
- Lean forward and squeeze your right glute in this position. Hold for 30-90 seconds.
- Repeat on the other side. This time, right foot forward.
To make it easier, hold onto a chair or wall to help maintain balance. If you encounter any discomforts, leave this position, and straighten your spine.
2. Butterfly Pose
The butterfly pose works on both your flexors and adductors. It enhances flexibility in your lower back, loosening up your groin, hips, and inner thighs muscles which draws your legs together. This helps to maintain stability and balance, as well as stimulate blood flow.
- Sit tall on the floor, envision a string attached to your back, bringing you to sit straight up in great posture.
- Bend your knees and ensure the soles of your feet touch at the center in butterfly position.
- With an erect spine, grab hold of each foot with your hands.
- Inhale to prepare, and exhale while lowering your torso forward. Hold when you feel the stretch.
- Maintain this pose for 60 seconds.
If this stretch feels too easy, bring your feet closer to your body to extend the hip muscles more.
Hip Extension Exercises
3. Standing Hip Extension
This exercise targets the gluteus muscles, ensures pelvic alignment, and gives support to the lower back. It improves the strength and stability of your glute, thus challenging balance.
- With your shoulders wide apart, keep your back straight while standing.
- Make sure your knees are straight and locked.
- Keep your hands on your hips for stability, extend your right leg back, keeping your toes on the ground. Your legs will create a triangle-like position.
- Gently extend your right hip backwards without arching your back.
- Return your foot to the initial position and repeat 10 times.
- Repeat for the other leg.
If thisstanding exercise seems too easy, secure a light weight around your ankle, or use a resistance band.
4. Prone Straight Leg Raise
Core strength is intimately related to balance because good stability at the core ensures safe and effective movement at the hip, knees, and ankle. This hip extension exercise improves core muscle strength and helps relieve hip pain.
- Start by lying face down on a mat.
- Then tighten your core muscles by sucking in your stomach.
- Slowly lift one leg up, keeping your stomach on the ground and your buttocks tight.
- After 3 seconds, gently lower your leg.
- Repeat this exercise ten times.
- Repeat the exercise on the other leg.
This workout is one of the best exercises for strengthening hips post-surgery.
5. Side Hip Raises
This is a hip stabilizing exercise and builds the strength of your obliques, which are responsible for moving the spine, as well as stabilizing the pelvis and lower back.
- Lay on your right side on your mat. Use a pillow/towel for cushioning as needed.
- Place your forearm on the floor to help stabilize your weight, if needed.
- Slowly raise your left leg up, as far as is comfortable, and slowly bring it back down to meet the right leg. Slow is the key here; try to count to at least 5 as you bring your leg up and down.
- Repeat 5 times, roll over to lay on your left side and repeat, raising your right leg.
This exercise requires coordination and strength, so it's crucial to keep your breathing steady.
Hip Abduction Exercises
6. Standing Hip Abductors
This exercise promotes strength and stability in the hip abductors when walking or running. It is a good hip mobility exercise for seniors, strengthens core muscles, and can improve your ability to walk.
- Stand upright and hold onto a chair or the wall.
- Slowly raise one leg off the ground and away from your body as if you were going to kick the wall, making a half circle, before returning your foot back to the ground.
- Hold this position for 3 seconds before returning to center.
- Repeat this exercise 5 times.
- Switch legs and repeat reps on the opposite side.
Like with all balance exercises, maintain an upright posture. Avoid leaning to one side.
7. Hip Marches
Hip marches activate the glutes and hamstrings. It’s ideal for increasing core stability, and it enhances the ability to walk by avoiding shuffling. It also relieves hip and knee pain.
- Sit on a chair with feet flat on the floor. Ensure your back stays up against the chair, avoiding slouching and maintaining proper posture. Your hands can rest at the sides of your chair, or wherever is most comfortable.
- Lift up your right knee as high as comfortable, then lower it.
- Alternate lifting your knees for a total of 10 reps.
- Breathe regularly throughout the exercise.
- Duplicate this exercise 10-15 times on each side.
With balance exercises, it's essential to take breaks between multiple sets.
Hip Stretches for Seniors
8. Hip Circles
Hip circles target virtually all of your hip muscles. It's great for increasing general leg mobility, and particularly strengthens the glute which provides support to the hip. Strong glutes keeps your hips stable, relieves stress and tension, and increases hip flexibility.
- Stand upright with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Bend your knees slightly and place your hands on your hip.
- Slowly rotate your hips, making big circles, keeping your toes planted on the ground.
- Complete a set in a clockwise direction.
- Repeat counter-clockwise.
- Spend at least 30 seconds in each direction. You can also do this move from your chair.
If you experience difficulty in balance during this exercise, reduce the circle sizes or hold onto a sturdy object for support.
9. Knee-to-Chest Pose
The next exercise works on both your hip flexors and extensors. It’s a popular move in yoga for seniors because it helps extend the lower back, hips, and thighs. It also aids in proper blood circulation around the hip.
- Lay down on your back on a mat and fold your knees to touch your chest (or as close as is comfortable).
- Keep your knees bent and wrap your arms around them.
- Slowly pull your knees and chin to your chest until you feel a stretch at your lower back.
- Maintain this pose for 20 seconds.
- Relax by unfolding your knees and neck, laying on the mat with your legs extended and lifted.
- Repeat the stretch.
During rests, keep your legs lifted during the movement. Your feet should not touch the floor.
Are Hip-Strengthening Exercises Right for Me?
Hip strengthening exercises for seniors keep hip joints healthy by enhancing blood supply and raising our mobility and physical energy. As a precaution, check in with yourprimary care provider before incorporating these workouts into your new program.
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