Why the hip flexors are key to healthy ageing - and three ways to work them
Maintaining good mobility in your hips can slip under the radar as you age but here are some moves to help with this
A new study has highlighted the importance of strong hip flexors in maintaining good mobility - a key concern for many of us as we age.
In the study, published in the Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, researchers took 433 older adults and recorded how they performed in a collection of mobility tests. Looking at their level of physical function the participants performed various exercises such as, standing up from a chair five times without their hands, standing on a chair and sprinting up a set of stairs. The same adults took part in the same mobility tests a year on.
Following the results of this, the scientists found that the adults whose functional mobility had decreased had obvious weaker hip flexor strength to those who performed the test better or the same second time round.
Maintaining mobility in your hips is not only good for fitness performance - like when we hinge our hips during a squat or when we flex and extend the hip during a lunge. As the largest weight-bearing joint in the body, healthy hip flexors are also essential for everyday activities such as walking, as well as good posture and flexibility.
A separate study carried out in 2017 also found that the hip flexor muscles are a good area to target for those who suffer from peripheral arterial disease, which occurs when fatty deposits build up in the arteries and restricts the supply of blood to the leg muscles.
“I incorporate hip openers into every single class I teach,” says Alexandra Baldi, yoga teacher and founder of yoga studio Compass Chelsea. “I say to all my practitioners without fail that hips are the tell-tale sign of our body.”
Baldi adds that there are 20 muscles in the body that cross the hips, and that tight hips can affect every aspect of the body.
It’s clear then that hip flexor mobility is key to healthy ageing. Below, Baldi She shares below some of her top moves for strengthening the hip flexors that can be practiced at home. All you’ll need to do them is a comfortable mat (take a look at our pick of the , best yoga mats if you don’t already own one).
Three moves to improve hip flexor strength
Baldi instructs that this move should begin in a downward facing dog position. From here, lift your right leg in the air and move your right ankle to your left wrist as you let yourself fall forward and release your right hip. Some people might struggle to stay solid on the mat so Baldi recommends placing a yoga block below your hip. She refers to this movement as a hip opener and says that controlled breathing should help you surrender into the move. You should aim to hold this for one minute before switching sides.
The double pigeon is slightly more straightforward. Start by sitting upright in a cross legged position. From here, place one leg in front of your body and walk your hands out in front of you - you should feel a good stretch in the outer hips. Aim to hold this for 30 seconds or more and finish by slowly walking your hands back to your legs. Alternate legs and repeat the move.
Coming onto all fours (with your hands right under your shoulders and knees under your hips) bring your right foot and place it between your hands, says BaldiBalti. From here, lengthen your left leg further away, ensuring the leg is extended long, with the knee and top of your left foot pressed into the mat. Once here, raise your arms up to sit either side of your face and begin to lean forward slowly. You should start to feel a stretch in the left hip flexor and thigh. To avoid straining the ribs, keep your tailbone tucked under. Baldi recommends holding this move for 30 seconds or five long breaths before switching sides.
Jessica is an experienced fitness writer with a passion for running. Her career in journalism began in local news and she holds a Masters in journalism. Jessica has previously written for Runners World, penning news and features on fitness, sportswear and nutrition.
When she isn't writing up news and features for Fit&Well covering topics ranging from muscle building, to yoga, to female health and so on, she will be outdoors somewhere, testing out the latest fitness equipment and accessories to help others find top products for their own fitness journeys. Her testing pairs up nicely with her love for running. She recently branched out to running 10Ks and is trying to improve her time before moving on to larger races. Jessica also enjoys building on her strength in the gym and is a believer in health and wellness beginning in the kitchen. She shares all of this on her running Instagram account @jessrunshere which she uses for accountability and for connecting with like-minded fitness lovers.
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