Women, especially as they age, are at particular risk for hip-related problems and fractures due to falls. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that falls are the primary cause of injury, disability and death among older Americans and account for 95 percent of hip fractures. But a 40 to 60 percent reduction of hip fracture risk comes with increased physical activity. You can improve balance and mobility, strengthen muscles and build bone to avoid hip injury with a regular exercise program.
Exercise makes your bones bigger. Bones are dynamic and constantly growing, although bone growth slows as you age. When stress from resistance and weight is applied to bones, the osteoblasts -- cells that form new bone -- are stimulated and move from the marrow to the surface of the bone where they begin to calcify and make the bone denser. NSCA-certified strength and conditioning coach Danny O'Dell reports that strength training increases bone density -- the more intense the exercise, the stronger the bone growth. O'Dell recommends full-body resistance workouts including squats, calf raises, triceps extensions, shoulder shrugs, deadlifts, barbell curls and abs workouts two to three times a week to accelerate bone growth. Focus on the abs, glutes, quads and hamstrings to strengthen the hip area and increase new bone cells.
Hip strengthening exercises use body weight and equipment to work the hip area, including the glutes and the hip flexors. The American Council on Exercise provides a wide range of drills, from beginner to advanced level, that target the hips. Simple body-weight squats can be done anywhere. For a greater challenge, try lateral shuffles with an agility ladder. Alternate leg push-offs on a low step and lateral jumps onto a balance platform focus on butt, hips and legs. Forward lunges require no equipment and you can do bent-knee hip extensions on a floor mat. Hip hinges, holding a light-weight bar along your straight back as you bend forward from the hips and return to an upright position, will train you to do better squats as you work your hip flexors.
Balance and Flexibility
Hip flexibility means you have better range of motion for sports or daily activities. Good balance allows you to shift position quickly and easily without risk of injury. Exercising the hip flexors improves flexibility and balance and helps to protect your hip bones. Use a resistance band for a portable workout of the abductors and adductors, the muscles that control the side-to side movements of the legs from the hips. Anchor the band to a secure object and around one ankle. Move your leg out to the side, back to center and across the support leg, against the resistance of the band. Improve balance with hamstring curls and shoulder bridges on a stability ball for a surprisingly tough workout. Increase the challenge by raising one leg toward the ceiling, using the remaining leg to hold the ball in place.
Weight-bearing aerobics, like daily brisk walking and hill cycling, will protect your hips by strengthening bones and muscles. Gardening and ballroom dancing give you a workout that employs the hip flexors. Just being more active will have a beneficial effect on your hip bones. Dr. Miriam E. Nelson, author of a study about exercise and osteoporosis risk and the book "Strong Women Stay Young," found that high-intensity weight training made research subjects more active in general, reinforcing increases in muscle strength, balance and bone density. Use the enhanced energy levels and improved fitness you gain from an exercise routine that targets hips to lead a more active lifestyle. The workouts you do to fortify hip bones don't all have to take place in the gym.
- American Council on Exercise: Butt & Hip Exercises
- BrianMac: Adaptation of Bone to Exercise
- Journal of the American Medical Association: Effects of High-Intensity Strength Training on Multiple Risk Factors for Osteoporotic Fractures
- CDC: Reducing Falls and Resulting Hip Fractures Among Older Women
- The New York Times: Older, Wiser, Stronger: Grandmas Head for the Weight Room
Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .