The Best Moves for Healthy Hips

Shakira was right: Your hips don’t lie: In fact, they’re a very accurate barometer of many health factors, including your weight and your fitness level. These smooth moves from a sports medicine doctor, a physical therapist and Pilates teacher will keep your hips in tip-top shape.
Photo by Adam Walker

By Amy Schlinger

Taking care of your hips now can help you avoid pain, limited mobility and hip-replacement surgery later. To keep them strong, flexible and healthy throughout your life, three experts recommend the most effective moves for protecting these vulnerable joints.

The sports medicine doctor recommends: squats

Why they help: “Squats strengthen the glutes, which helps to open the hips,” explains Jordan Metzl, MD, sports medicine physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.

How to do them: Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart, feet pointed slightly outward. Keeping back straight and without letting knees pass ankles, bend knees and push them outward as you sit back and down until your hips are lower than your knees, or as far as you can. Push through heels to come back to standing. Repeat. Do 15 reps.

The physical therapist recommends: lateral stepping with band

Why they help: “This targets your gluteus medius, minimus, and maximus, strengthening your entire posterior chain,” explains Dan Giordano, D.P.T., C.S.C.S, co-founder of Bespoke Treatments Physical Therapy in New York City.

How to do them: Place resistance band around lower legs. Keeping back straight, bend knees and sit back into a quarter squat. Staying low, step right foot out laterally to the right side, then step the left foot to follow. Walk five steps to the right, then five to the left. Repeat. Do 30 steps total.

The Pilates teacher recommends: Single leg circles

Why they help: “This move stretches and strengthens your hip flexors and thigh muscles, particularly the iliotibial, or IT, band,” explains Hayley Thorpe, director of Norma Jean Pilates in Sag Harbor, NY. “Plus, it challenges your core strength and pelvic stability.”

How to do them: Lie on back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor, arms at your sides. Lift right leg and extend it fully towards ceiling or as high as you can. Slowly, draw big circle in the air with the right leg. Do 5 circles one direction, then five the other direction. Then switch legs and repeat.