Have you noticed that your hip muscles are getting tighter? Do you ever get sharp pains when you stand up from a chair? Or when you’re on the tennis court, and try moving side-to-side quickly?
These symptoms are very common today because we spend so much time sitting, either in front of a computer or some other screen.
Did you know that some doctors now think prolonged periods of sitting can be as bad for your health as smoking?
Sitting for long periods of time wrecks your body. Your calorie burning drops to 1 calorie per minute. Enzymes that break down fat drop 90%. Insulin effectiveness drops, raising your risk of diabetes, according to doctors in the UK.
Even if you exercise for 30 minutes a day, but sit for the rest of the day, sitting erases many of the benefits of all that exercise.
Sitting also wrecks your hip muscles. In addition to the sharp pains, sitting can gradually tighten up your hip muscles and prevent you from being able to push off quickly and get to a wide tennis shot in time. In other words, you’re losing a step on the court.
Luckily, there’s a simple solution to this.
First, you’ve got to make it a habit to get up and move every 30 minutes or so. Do anything. Walk around the house or apartment. Walk up and down a flight of stairs. Do some jumping jacks. Jog in place for three minutes. Anything that gets your legs moving. A 10-minute walk outside would be ideal. Or 10 minutes on a stationary bike, if you have one.
There is also a wonderful stretch you can do that will erase the hip pain and lower back pain caused by sitting.
The standing cross-legged stretch
The single best stretch I’ve found for hip pain is the standing cross-legged stretch.
You simply cross one leg over your knee and gradually, slowly, sink down on the other leg until you can touch your nose or forehead or chin to your knee and hold it there for 10 seconds.
Mind you – if your hips are tight – it could take you a few weeks to get to that position! When I first started, my hip muscles were so tight, I could barely cross my legs standing and put my socks on in the morning.
Now I can sink into the stretch to the point where my cheek is resting on my knee. I can really feel the stretch in my hips.
The key is to count to 60 or 90 seconds and hold the stretch for that time. If your standing leg gets tired, it’s perfectly okay to stand up straight and sink down again. Don’t worry if you have to hold onto a chair or table with your free hand, to balance yourself. It’s the stretch that counts.
Also, remember to do yoga breaths (or combat breaths) every 15 seconds. Yoga breaths are where you breath in while counting to 5 or 6 seconds, then slowly breathe out for 5-6 seconds. You’ll find that you sink a little bit further into the stretch after each yoga breath.
Another key is to make this stretch a DAILY HABIT. That way it becomes part of your daily routine, like brushing your teeth and having your morning coffee. If you skip one day, you move backwards.
Do it at least once a day at the same time. I do mine every day when I put on my socks. That way it has become a regular part of my routine. By doing it every day, you gradually improve the depth of your stretch in a matter of days.
This isn’t an easy stretch. You’ll be breathing heavily after you finish both legs. But you’ll feel it in your hips immediately.
Some people do this stretch while sitting in a chair or lying on their back. But I recommend doing this stretch in the standing position. You not only stretch out your hip muscles and lower back, you also stretch out the Achilles tendon of your standing foot at the same time. This extra stretch can prevent the common tennis injury of a strained or torn Achilles tendon.
Remember … hold the stretch … count to 60 seconds (at least) … remember to take a deep breath every 15 seconds … and do it every day.
Within a week or two, you’ll find that you can put your nose or forehead or chin to your knee. You’ll see (and feel!) amazing progress in your flexibility.
And here’s the best part. By doing this one simple stretch, your hip tightness and pain will disappear. Even if you still sit for hours a day working (as we all have to).
Better still, you’ll be able to push off on the court to change directions and chase after a ball, without sharp jabs of pain or muscle weakness.
Try this for at least two weeks and let me know how it works for you. And if you want to kick things up a notch, take a look at: Complete Conditioning for Tennis (Complete Conditioning for Sports Series)