There are a lot of wonderful things about getting older—long-standing friendships, increased wisdom, fond memories, etc.—but achy joints aren’t one of them.
Luckily, hip and knee exercises can keep you feeling strong and confident while combating the everyday wear and tear of a life well-lived. Here are a few equipment-free exercises that will make your knees and hips strong for years to come:
Straight Leg Raises
Straight leg raises can help you gain strength in the knees—in fact, the exercise is often recommended for patients who have undergone knee surgery. Simply lie on your back with your arms at your side and your legs straight. Lift your right leg off the ground (keeping your knee straight) and hold the pose for five seconds. Slowly lower your right leg back down to the floor and repeat five to 10 times. You then want to do the same steps with your left leg. As your knees increase in strength, consider adding ankle weights for added difficulty.
Once you’re comfortable with straight leg raises, wall squats will provide a new challenge as you continue to increase your knee strength. Start by standing with your back against the wall and your feet shoulder-length apart. Bend your knees, place your feet two feet out in front of you, and slide your back down the wall until you reach a 90-degree angle with your legs (think of it like you’re sitting in an invisible chair).
Eventually, you’ll be able to hold this exercise for 60 seconds, but in the beginning, start out slow (even as short as five seconds) to avoid straining your muscles. The great thing about this move is that it works your quads while strengthening your knees!
Standing Hamstring Stretch
Stretching is an important factor to building knee strength and reducing any pesky pain. Avid runners typically experience a fair amount of knee pain, so many rely on the standing hamstring stretch to get them back in action.
Place your right heel on a chair (or any surface that’s approximately two-feet tall) but leave your left foot on the floor. Lean forward slowly, keeping your knees slightly bent and your back perfectly straight, until you feel a good stretch in your hamstrings. Hold for at least 20 seconds and repeat three times. Then do the same steps with your left leg on the chair.
Standing Side Leg Lift
Side leg lifts can also be done on the floor, but making this a standing exercise allows you to also work your abs while strengthening your hips. Stand with your back straight and your left leg slightly bent. Lift your right leg out to the side, as high as you can, and slowly lower it back down. Try your best to complete 10 lifts without letting your right foot touch the ground, as this will keep your core engaged throughout the entire process for added benefits. Repeat these moves with your left leg.
Lie on your back with your knees bent, your feet on the floor, and your arms resting comfortably at your side. To begin, you want to tighten your core and raise your hips (as the name suggests), lifting your glutes off the ground as your shoulders and feet support your weight. Hold for five to 10 seconds, return to the starting position, and repeat at least 10 times. As you increase your hip strength, add a second set.
Hip flexor exercises are great, but incorporating a hip stretch into your workout will yield exponential benefits. One of the most popular hip stretches is the frog stretch. Start this move on the floor, supporting your weight with your knees and elbows. Move your knees out as far as you can and slowly move your hips back and forth. If you feel tightness at any point, hold that position for at least 20 seconds.
With people spending more and more time sitting at desks, it has become increasingly important to incorporate hip and knee exercises into workout routines and cardio exercises. Try some of these easy, equipment-free moves today and enjoy increased strength and mobility for a happy, healthy future.
How do you keep your joints healthy and strong? Share some of your favorite moves with a #GoodMatters tweet!
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.