While walking is one of the best and most accessible forms of exercise, if that is the only exercise you do, you may find yourself tightening up through your hips. That is because your hips and particularly your legs are only moving through one range of motion – back and forth like a pendulum. The trick to keep your flexibility and therefore comfort through your hips is to move them around through different ranges of motion.
Dancing is great for that, although sadly we don’t get enough opportunities to dance to really make a difference. So, if you don’t have the time or the inclination to add a dance routine into your daily exercise regime try a few simple moves either at home or out on your walk to vary your movement.
Here are a couple of exercises you can do standing up and a really good lying down stretch that you will feel through your lower back and hips.
Remember to keep good body posture when you do standing exercises. Stand up nice and straight; keep your knees slightly bent, your pelvis tilted forward and your tummy tucked in nice and firm. Do this by using your tummy muscles rather than by holding your breath. Keep your movements slow and controlled and avoid building up momentum, so you feel like you are just swinging your legs.
Side leg raises
Place your hands shoulder width apart on the back of a seat or low wall, stand up nice and straight. Slowly raise one leg out to the side about 45 degrees. Keep your toes pointed forward and hold for a slow count of five. Lower your leg and repeat 12 times. Swap legs and repeat the movement on the other leg.
Figure of Eight
Standing with your feet shoulder width apart and your hands on your hips. Start off by simply moving your hips from side to side, without moving your feet. Once you have got into a bit of a rhythm, start to move your hips around to make a figure of eight. Do this 12 times in one direction and then reverse it and repeat this sequence two more times. Try and make the movements as big as you can, without moving your feet.
You can do this stretch lying on the floor or, if you have trouble getting up and down from the floor, do it on the edge of a bed or couch. Lie out straight on the floor, facing up, with your arms at right angles to your body, bring one knee up so your upper leg is at right angles to your body; bring your knee across your body towards the floor. At the same time you are doing this turn your upper body slightly in the other direction. You back might make a popping sound when you do this – it’s nothing to worry about.
Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds, and then repeat the stretch on the other side. If you are doing this on a bed or couch, lie on your side facing out, bend your top leg and slowly lower it over the side of the bed/couch. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and then swap sides and repeat.
– Deb Hurdle is the manager of recreation at SPARC