Fit facts: Reduce hip injuries

Get hip to injury prevention

Are you a runner continually sidelined by injury? You may have a strength imbalance in your hips. A study from the Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions in Provo, Utah, finds that runners who suffer from injuries like knee pain and Achilles tendonitis have weaker hip and abductor muscles than non-injured runners.

By building strength in the hip flexors, which lift the thigh forward, and abductors, which swing the leg away from the body, runners can reduce the likelihood of overuse injuries, researchers say.

To strengthen your hip flexors, perform alternating single leg lifts while lying on your back. For stronger hip abductors, rollover and do leg lifts on your side. Use ankle weights or resistance bands for a greater challenge.

A fitter pregnancy

If you're a long-term exerciser, you may have an easier time with some of the discomforts of pregnancy.

Recently, Swedish scientists investigated whether women with a history of working out are less likely to experience the common complaints of low back and pelvic pain during pregnancy. The answer: yes. Women with at least 21 years of exercise experience were more than 70 percent less likely to report low back and pelvic pain than women who had exercised fewer than five years. One more reason to get fit for the long haul.

Try this: Lying Crossover Stretch

Who says stretching has to eat up time? The lying crossover stretch targets your back, chest, hips and hamstrings simultaneously and is as effective as it is unusual.

Lie on your back with your heels together and your arms outstretched at right angles to your torso. Try to touch your left foot to your right hand by lifting your left leg and rotating your hips. Keep your leg as straight as possible and your left shoulder blade in contact with the floor throughout the movement.

Return slowly to the starting position and then touch your right foot to your left hand. Repeat up to 10 times.

Hatha Yoga: Not a hearty workout

Hatha yoga has many benefits, but cardiovascular fitness is apparently not one of them. According to a recent study from Texas State University-San Marcos, students participating in a hatha yoga workout used oxygen at a rate of only 15 percent of their personal maximum. By contrast, walking on a treadmill used oxygen at three times this rate.

The study concluded that hatha yoga doesn't raise the rate of oxygen consumption enough to improve cardiovascular fitness. Previous research has shown that hatha yoga increases strength and flexibility, but look elsewhere for that cardio boost.

Matt Fitzgerald is the author, most recently, of Runner's World Performance Nutrition for Runners (Rodale, 2005), The Cutting-Edge Runner (Rodale, 2005) and Runner's World Guide to Cross-Training (Rodale, 2004).

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