If we sit at our desks all day and our sofas all evening, it's easy to forget our hips are tightening up a lot. Even if we're sat on the best office chair, which can sort out many of our lumbar or lower-back issues, our hips are still in the same position all day.
When our muscles and tendons go unused, they get shorter, causing stiffness and even bouts of pain with lack of use according to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center (opens in new tab). Over time, this reduced mobility will lead to a lack of mobility when doing day-to-day tasks, and something as simple as getting up and walking around can become a painful ordeal.
This is the biggest problem with developing tight hips: it stops you doing things. You don't want to run, or squat, or jump, or in extreme cases even walk, because it's simply too painful. Make sure you're maintaining mobility in your hips while you can. Below are three stretches, from beginner to advanced, to help you open up your hips and get some mobility back in your life.
Hip stretch for beginners: Lying leg raise
This is a nice easy one to get started with. Leg raises performed when lying down are great for strengthening our core and glutes, with the additional benefit of opening up the hips. Lying down and raising our leg in the air, we're not putting any pressure on our joints, making this a good stretching exercise for people who don't do strenuous exercise on a regular basis.
Leg raises are easily performed while lying on our side, or lying on our backs. When lying on our side, as in the picture above, the leg can be moved upwards away from the midline of our bodies, which is called an "abduction" movement.
When lying on our back, with our shoulders flat on the floor, the leg goes straight up, following the midline of our body in an "extension" movement. Straight leg lifts actually activate two muscle groups in our hips, psoas major and iliacus, according to one study from the University of Hokkaido (opens in new tab). By switching between side leg raise and a "straight" leg raise, we can ensure the hip is activated from lots of different angles.
For more beginner's stretches, check out our guide to stretching exercises here.
Hip stretch for intermediates: Deep squat
Ever tried holding the deep squat position above? It hurts, especially if you go one step further and push your knees out with your elbows. But deep squatting for minutes at a time is still a way of life for people in some parts of the world.
Researchers from the University of Southern California (opens in new tab) examined a group of Tanzanian hunter-gatherers who rested by squatting or kneeling up to 10 hours a day. Even though they rested as long as Westerners, they had no precursors of chronic diseases associated with a sedentary life, like obesity and hypertension.
It's obviously impractical to sit down like this in a public workplace, but it's a great static stretch to train your hips. Try holding the position for 30 seconds at a time, progressing to one minute and eventually two minutes once you feel comfortable down there.
Hip stretches for the advanced: Pigeon pose
Pigeon pose is a difficult one, folding your leg directly under your body and using your body weight to push down, stretching your hips even further. It might not for those with extremely tight hips or people that don't move regularly, but it's known to be effective.
Stiff hips can often result in chronic lower back pain, but yoga interventions can help. One study (opens in new tab) found twice-weekly yoga sessions for 12 weeks, all of which involved the pigeon pose, was very effective at improving mobility and reducing instances and severeness of back pain.
Although it's an advanced technique, you don't need anything to get started other than some floor space, some comfy clothes and one of our best yoga mats.
Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and News Editor at Fit&Well, covering all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
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