When you finally clock out after a day at work, the muscles that cross the front of your hip might need special attention. Sitting hour after hour with your hips flexed can leave those muscles -- known as the iliacus and psoas, or iliapsoas -- tight, stiff and sore. Spend several minutes throughout your work day stretching your flexors to maintain or improve hip health and ward off a host of troublesome conditions.
Spending much or most of your day seated leads to shortening of the hip flexors, which can limit your ability to straighten the hip, alter the position of your pelvis, and cause excessive curvature of your lower spine. In turn, these changes can affect your stride, lead to back pain and arthritis in the lower spine, and lead to injury when other body parts compensate. Sitting for long periods of time can impact your health in other significant ways, as well. A study appearing in the May 2009 edition of "Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise" suggests that excessive sitting affects mortality from all causes, including cancer and heart disease. Prolonged sitting also ups your diabetes risk, according to a meta-analysis discussed in "Diabetalogia" in 2012.
Even when you're stuck at your desk, you can counteract the hip-tightening effect of sitting with light stretching. To stretch your right hip from a seated position, shift to the left side of your chair, letting your right leg and buttock extend off the edge of the seat. Keeping your right leg bent, move your right foot back to extend your right hip and lengthen the hip flexors. Contract your buttocks slightly, tucking them forward to deepen the stretch. You'll feel light to moderate tension along the front of your right hip and thigh. Hold the position for up to 30 seconds, relax briefly and repeat up to four times before shifting to the other side of your chair to stretch the left hip.
If you have more freedom to get up and move, stretch your flexors from a nonseated position. Push the back of your chair against a wall and place the sole of your left foot on the edge of the seat. Keeping your shoulders and hips square to the front, bend your left knee and shift your hips directly forward until you feel tension along the front of the right hip. Alternatively, stretch your flexors from a single-leg kneeling or lunge position or lie supine on your desk and let one leg dangle off the edge, letting gravity open the front of the hip. Hold all stretches for up to 30 seconds and repeat up to four times on each side, even if you sense one hip is tighter than the other.
Hip and Health Boosters
You'll get more out of your hip stretches, and boost your overall health profile, if you stretch frequently throughout the day. Every hour, get up from your chair, march in place to increase blood flow and warm your muscles, and do a quick stretch. Make hip flexor stretches part of a more extensive flexibility routine that includes neck, shoulder, chest and hamstring stretches. At home, use a tennis ball or foam roller to relieve excessive tension from your flexors. Lie prone with the ball or roller under the front of your hip, letting the downward pressure of your body loosen particularly tight spots.
- Yoga Journal: Get Hip About Flexors
- Life Time Fitness: The Hip Flexor -- Critical for Performance
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: Sitting Time and Mortality from all Causes, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer
- Diabetologia: Sedentary Time in Adults and the Association with Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease and Death: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
- Arthritis Today: Seated Hip Flexors and Quadriceps Stretches
- ExRx.net: Standing Hip Flexor Stretch
- American Council on Exercise: The 3 Stretches You Should Be Doing If You Sit at a Desk
- Nismat: Lower Body Exercises
- Core Knowledge: Trigger Point -- Hip Flexors
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