Treadmills are one of the most popular pieces of cardiovascular exercise equipment in fitness facilities and in gyms. Let's face it, walking can be done by just about anyone, and on a treadmill you can watch TV. When you're walking, you are using the hip flexors, so even on a treadmill it does put stress on them. However, this doesn't mean you shouldn't walk on the treadmill, because your hip flexors were designed for this.
Hip Flexor Function
Your hip flexors are actually two muscles -- the iliacus and the psoas major. These muscles originate on the vertabrae in the lower portion of your spine and insert on the pelvis. The term hip flexors also refers to the rectus femoris, sartorius and inner thigh muscles that cross the hip and knee joints. The function of the hip flexors is to flex, or bend, the hip, as well as assist with rotation, abduction and adduction of the leg.
Normal walking, or locomotion, consists of swing and stance phases that are separated by a heel strike. The swing phase is when your foot is off the ground and moving forward past the planted foot. The stance phase refers to the foot on the ground that is bearing your weight. Your hip flexors are under stress, or working, during the swing phase of walking. This is normal and what the hip flexors are designed to do.
Using a Treadmill
Stress can be good or bad. All exercise is stressful and causes positive adaptations in your body when done properly. To protect your hip flexors when using your treadmill, start slowly. If you are new to the treadmill, walk for as little as five to 10 minutes at low to moderate pace. Keep the treadmill flat, and hold on to the rails if you feel unsteady. Gradually increase the speed you walk and the duration of your workouts. Build up so that you are walking three to five times per week for at least 30 minutes. Done properly, the exercise should not put your hip flexors under any undue, or dangerous, stress.
When to Back Off
If you are experiencing pain in the front of your hips when walking on your treadmill, stop immediately. It's possible that you were walking too fast or you strained the muscles. See a physician if it does not clear up within a day or two. Follow physician and physical therapist guidelines when using a treadmill. Also add any strength training and stretching exercises they advise to keep your hip flexors healthy.
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