Health

Strengthening This Neglected Body Part Is Key to Avoiding Chronic Pain and Staying Mobile as You Age

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We all know that exercise is incredibly important as we get older, but often it’s not just about if you work out but what you work out. Strengthening certain body parts can make a big difference in your overall well-being, and according to recent research, that begins with your hip flexors.

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Hip flexors are a group of muscles that you may have not previously paid much attention to, that surround the ball and socket joint where your hips meet the top of your legs. You use them every time you walk, run, swim, or dance. While they’re crucial to virtually any movement we do, many people don’t stretch their hip flexors or actively strengthen them over time. This can eventually cause pain in the knees, back, and hips as well as create new issues when moving around unassisted. If you have trouble standing up on your own or walking at a faster pace when prompted, it may be a hip flexor issue. And now, science shows why working on them is more important than we previously realized.

In a new study published Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, researchers wanted to take a closer look at just how vital hip flexors are when predicting health outcomes in older adults. The study tested 433 participants’ handgrip strength, hip flexion, hip extension, hip abduction, knee extension, and toe flexion. Subjects also performed three basic mobility tests, where they got up from a chair without using their arms, stood on one leg for balance, and walked up a set of stairs quickly. One year later, scientists took the same measurements from all participants and compared the data.

What they found is that the weaker people’s hip flexors were after that year-long time period, the higher their risk of falls and chronic pain; moreover, they generally had less mobile independence, which means they needed more assistance getting around than they did the year prior. Interestingly, hip flexor strength was the greatest indicator of an older person’s mobility and functional capacity, so if you haven’t thought about them before, now’s the time to start.

Looking to strengthen them immediately? Doing several rounds of eight to 10 reps of moves like butterfly stretches, lunges, bridges, and squats can make a huge difference. It may also be the perfect time to try a yoga or pilates class, both of which work those muscles in the process. You’ll start to see improvements in just a few weeks!

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