It's normal to lose some muscle mass and bone mass as we age — but contrary to popular opinion, many of these changes aren't inevitable. In fact, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), much of the loss in muscle and bone results more from a sedentary lifestyle than from aging.
And it's especially important not to neglect our hip health. As we lose bone mass, we also run the risk of developing osteoarthritis — which, according to the AAOS, is responsible for almost all of the hip fractures that occur in both older men and older women.
One way to prevent some of this deterioration is by performing mobility and stability exercises regularly, says Cris Dobrosielski, CSCS, a consultant for the American Council on Exercise and owner of Monumental Results in San Diego, California.
"Stability and mobility of the hip are really important, and one without the other can be problematic," he says. "It's an important balancing act."
Here are three great hip exercises to add to your fitness routine, says Dobrosielski. If you're a beginner, shoot for about 1 set of 15 reps; if you have more experience, try for 1 to 3 sets of 15 reps. If any of the exercises are too easy, try performing the movements with a pair of dumbbells or a heavier resistance band.
It's also a good idea to warm up with 5 or 10 minutes of walking on a treadmill or doing an elliptical, he says. If you're a beginner, ask someone to spot you before trying the exercises.
And of course, before starting a new fitness routine, check with your doctor first.
Squats primarily target your glute muscles, which are partly responsible for good pelvic health, says Dobrosielski.
Step 1: Stand upright with your feet and knees about hip-width apart, and your hands extended out in front of you for balance.
Step 2: Then, bend your knees and push your hips back as you sink into a seated position. Keeping your back flat, drop down as far as you comfortably can, then pause. (Aim for a half squat—or about one-third of the way to the floor.)
Step 3: Pressing up with your heels and mid-feet, stand up and return to the starting position for 1 rep.
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Banded Lateral Step-Outs
Lateral step-outs work the external rotators of the hip, which help manage the hip impingement that so many of us develop, says Dobrosielski.
Step 1: Start by placing a resistance tubing band just above your knees. Then stand upright, with your knees slightly bent and your feet about 6 to 12 inches apart.
Step 2: Take one step out with your right foot, keeping your left leg stationary. Pause, then return to the starting position.
Step 3: Take another step out with your left foot, this time keeping your right leg stationary. Pause, then return to the starting position. That's 1 rep.
This exercise targets your hip extensors — i.e., the hamstrings and glute muscles, according to the American Council of Exercise.
What you'll need: A yoga mat
Step 1: Start in a modified push-up position, with your hands directly underneath your shoulders and your knees on the ground, underneath your hips.
Step 2: Keeping your back flat, slowly raise your left heel up toward the ceiling until your knee is parallel with your hips. (Your toes should be pointing down, toward the floor.)
Step 3: Pause, then lower your leg to the starting position and repeat with the right leg. That's 1 rep.
After a workout, try adding this stretch to your routine:
This exercise will help open up your hip and help boost your lower back health, says Dobrosielski.
Step 1: Start by placing your left knee on a yoga mat and your right foot flat on the floor. (Your leg should form a 90-degree angle.)
Step 2: Keeping your back straight, place both hands on your right thigh and lean forward, into your right hip, while keeping your hip stable.
Step 3: Hold the position, then repeat with the other leg.
Need more fitness suggestions? Here are 16 gentle exercises for people with arthritis.
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