Your hips are contracted whenever you're sitting (so, if you're stuck at home, this happens a lot), but experts stress the importance of hip mobility. "When we sit for extended periods of time, the hips are flexed, or bent, and the large, powerful muscles that cross the front of the hip—the hip flexors—are in a shortened position," says Brian Hoke, DPT, physical therapist and Vionic Innovation Lab member. "This leads to tightness of these muscles." According to him, all it takes is more than 30 minutes of sitting to start feeling the negative effects on your body. "We begin to see a loss of elasticity in the muscles, and this can be more pronounced as we get older and the muscles become a bit less pliable."
But the importance of hip mobility isn't just for the sake of your hips themselves: Tight hips can lead to a domino effect of other body pain hotspots and even injuries. "The problem [from sitting for long periods of time] can manifest as pain in the back, hip, or knee," says Dr. Hoke. "The hip flexors actually originate in the lower back, so when they get tight, it can place stress on the lumbar spine." Or you could experience pain in the front of your hip, either from muscle shortening or a pinching feeling from the rim around the hip joint socket.
This means that having flexible, mobile hips is so important for overall health and mobility. "Hip mobility is critical for healthy movement and injury prevention," says Corinne Croce, DPT, physical therapist. What can ya do, especially if you're still stuck at home for days on end? Keep scrolling for physical therapist-approved tips on maintaining hip mobility during the quarantine (and beyond).
1. Begin your day with mobility stretches
Dr. Croce believes that a morning routine filled with mobility work can do wonders for your overall mobility. For the hips, she recommends doing controlled articular rotations (CARs), then adding in some spine mobility stretches (like cat-cow). "Spinal health is critical for hip health and vice versa," she says.
2. Interrupt long periods of sitting
Both Dr. Croce and Dr. Hoke stress that it's incredibly important to take breaks from sitting to do some movements (Dr. Hoke suggests setting a timer for every 30 to 45 minutes). It can be a few minutes' worth of stretching or walking, but will make a tremendous difference in your hip mobility. "Foam roll the muscles surrounding the hips: your back, glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors, adductors, and quads," says Dr. Croce. "You could also use a vibration device." After that, she recommends doing stretches for these muscle groups, including staples like the kneeling hip flexor stretch, world's greatest stretch, downward dog, and glute bridges.
3. Try some breathwork
"Breathwork is super important for our physical and mental health," says Dr. Croce. "Not only does it bring stress relief, but it also works as a reset for our muscles." Taking time for conscious breathing calms your nervous system and increases blood flow throughout your body. Her tip? Begin and end each day with some breathing exercises, and try to take a five-minute break midday for some breathwork as a refresh.
4. Check your WFH setup
If you're planted on your couch or your bed hunching over your laptop all day, it's not going to do anything good for your hips (or the rest of your body, for that matter). Dr. Croce advises making sure that your home set-up is ergonomic. "Proper positioning is very important," she says. General guidelines include having both feet on the floor with your knees in line with your hips, your screen at eye level, and your elbows in line with your wrists. Oh, and consider investing in an ergonomic desk chair.
5. Incorporate yoga
Yoga has an extended list of benefits to both your mind and your body, so it's no surprise that the workout modality improves hip mobility. "You may find that some yoga poses are very helpful in relieving tightness in the front of the hips," says Dr. Hoke, pointing to high lunge, upward-facing dog, warrior pose, and cobra pose as examples. Whether you do a full-on yoga flow or just move through a couple of poses every hour, your hips will benefit.
6. End your day with a walk
Your hips (and the rest of your body) will also feel better if you end your day with a walk, says Dr. Croce. "This can be done at the end of the day to recover from the long sitting hours," she says. Walking, of course, gets your blood pumping and works like WD-40 to all of your joints, which will definitely be stiff if your step count is only 68 at 6 p.m.
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