As you age, hip care becomes incredibly important. You lose muscle mass and bone density as you get older, which can leave you prone to injuries. However, you don’t have to resign yourself to fragility. Regular stretching and exercise can strengthen your hips, increase mobility, and prevent injury.
Intense stretches can be difficult for people that suffer from stiffness and fatigue. If you have trouble committing to an exercise routine due to pain, illness, or lack of energy, don’t worry. This list consists of stretches and strengthening exercises tailored specifically to older people.
Hip Stretches for Seniors
Hip stretches are a bit different than hip exercises. While they might feel the same at first, stretches aim to loosen the muscles that support your hips. This increases flexibility and mobility, making it easier for you to move around.
We’ve included two seated stretches here, along with two gentle alternatives for those struggling with chronic pain or limited mobility.
Chair Hip Stretch
Your hip muscles can easily tighten up overnight, limiting your movement. Stretching in the morning reduces your risk of injury while going about your daily activities.
- Find a sturdy kitchen chair. While sitting, pull your right ankle up onto your left knee.
- Press gently on your right knee. You will feel the muscle stretch up through your thigh into your hip. If you feel pain, reduce the pressure.
- Keeping your legs crossed, untense your shoulders and lean forward. Make sure to keep your spine flat.
- Take a few deep breaths and let your body melt into the stretch. Hold this position for 30 seconds.
- Sit up slowly, and carefully remove your right ankle from your knee. Place both feet on the ground and relax.
- Once you feel ready, repeat the process with your left ankle.
The butterfly stretch is one of the most popular hip exercises for people of all ages. This stretch is good for seniors because it relieves hip pain and increases flexibility at the same time.
- Sit flat on the floor with your legs bent and splayed. The soles of your feet should be touching.
- Put your hands on your ankles and lean forward as much as possible.
- While leaning forward, use your elbows to push down on your knees. This will flex your hips. You want to flex them as much as possible, but lighten up if you feel pain.
- Hold this position for 15 seconds. Once you’re done, sit up slowly and repeat.
Gentle Stretching Alternatives
Sometimes, even the simplest stretches can seem overwhelming and difficult. If this is the case, you can get someone to help you with these gentler options. These specific exercises require you to lay on the ground. If you have hardwood floors, lay down a yoga mat to cushion your back.
Floor Hip Flexors
- While laying on your back, reach down and pull your right leg to your chest.
- Use your other hand to press your left knee into the floor. You will feel this stretch in your hip. If the flex begins to feel painful, release your knee and slowly try again.
- Hold the stretching position for 30 seconds.
- Repeat with the other side. You should try and do this 2-3 times on each side.
Knee to Chest Pose
This stabilizes your pelvis and stretches your hips. The chin-tuck also helps with neck pain, which makes this a good morning stretch.
- Lay flat on your back with your legs straight. Then, slowly bend your knees upwards until they meet your chest.
- Hold your knees still by wrapping your arms around your legs.
- Tuck your chin to your chest. This lengthens the back of your neck and stretches your spine.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds before slowly flattening yourself against the ground. Repeat this stretch 2-3 times.
If you’re having trouble holding both knees to your chest, you can do one leg at a time. Just keep one leg extended or bent while you hold the other. Over time, you can try and stretch both at the same time.
Hip Strengthening Exercises for Seniors
Where stretches aim to relax and loosen your muscles, exercises are designed to make them stronger. Here are two easy exercises, along with two gentle alternatives. Again, if you want more options, exercise tutorials are easy to find on various health websites.
- Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
- While keeping your knee bent, lift your knee up as high as possible.
- Lower your leg slowly and repeat on the other side. Try to aim for 10-15 repetitions, depending on your energy levels.
Make sure to slow down and breathe while doing this exercise. You can increase the difficulty by pushing down on your thighs as you lift your knees. This will provide resistance, which strengthens your muscles. When performed properly, this exercise will target your hips and abdominal muscles.
Sit to Stand
We sit down and stand up every day, but it’s important that you don’t take this mobility for granted. Sitting and standing requires quite a bit of strength, which makes it a great exercise. As long as you have a chair handy, you can exercise these vital muscles.
- Start off by standing with your back to the seat, as if you were going to sit down.
- Then, bend your knees and lean forward. Keep your ribcage lifted as you bend down, and try to engage your hips.
- Do not sit down fully in the chair. Instead, stop a few inches from the seat and straighten back up.
- Repeat this motion 10 times. Adding ankle weights to your arms can make this exercise more difficult.
Gentle Strengthening Alternatives
Just like our section on gentle stretching alternatives, here are some options for those who struggle with regular exercises.
- Start off laying on your back, and bend your knees.
- Plant your feet flat against the ground and place your palms next to your hips.
- Slowly lift your butt up from the ground. Keep your back straight, and lift your hips as high as possible.
- Hold this position for 5-10 seconds, and make sure to breathe.
- Slowly lower yourself back to the ground. Repeat this exercise 5-10 times.
This is an easy, progressive exercise that can grow with you. As you grow stronger, you can lift your hips higher and hold the bridge position for longer. This increases the difficulty and allows you to set goals for yourself.
- Start off at the bottom step of a staircase. You can hold onto the wall or banister for stability.
- Lift one leg off the step and let it hang towards the ground.
- Then, tilt your hip upwards until your feet are even again. Make sure to keep both knees straight during this process.
- Repeat this 10-15 times for each leg. Even if only one hip is sore, you should exercise both. Proper maintenance of your other hip is important.
If this exercise is still too draining for you, it can also be done laying down. Check out this tutorial to learn more.
Stretching and exercising your hips can greatly improve your mobility, flexibility, balance, and energy levels. As you get stronger, you’ll begin to feel more relaxed and capable. The best thing about these exercises is that they can be performed alone, with a caretaker, or in the presence of a friend.
Want to learn more about staying healthy, having fun, and thriving in your later years? Need tips on how to care for the seniors in your life? Our index of articles grows every month, so feel free to explore other topics on My Take On Health.