According to Greek mythology, The Sphinx guarded the city of Thebes to travellers. Entry to the city gained only by answering the following riddle:
What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon and three in the evening?
The Sphinx consumed the travellers if they were unable to solve the riddle.
According to the myth, Oedipus supplied the correct answer.
Oedipus reasoned that the answer was “man.”
Man begins life on hands and knees, progresses to two legs in midlife and finally three with a cane into old age.
Has Mother Nature miscalculated the human design of the hips?
As a physiotherapist observing clients, the design is perfect, but the function is impaired.
The hip joint is not getting enough function, starved of the necessary range of movement in a day.
The hip is underemployed in people’s daily lives. Tucked back and folded into our chairs, loungers, sofas and cars, our hip joints lose motion and function.
Aging is not the reason our hips are failing; inactivity is leading the way.
We slid into the world in the fetal position, curled up and flexed like a soft pretzel.
We couldn’t sit or stand until we developed the muscular mechanisms of extension. This extension strength gives us the ability to straighten, stand and walk on two legs.
As babies, we developed extension strength by using our arms and legs to push ourselves up. We first practiced this motion when lying on our stomachs. We progressed to pushing up on our hands and knees and beginning to crawl. Finally, we experimented with standing and then by taking our first steps.
Childhood play and sport further developed our hip muscles.
As adults, we can begin to lose hip function early in life. With hours spent sitting, our hip joints are often inactive, tight, and imbalanced.
The Under Employed Hip
As we are sitting more and moving less, our hip joints are suffering.
We need to focus on the impact our daily lifestyle habits have on our joints.
Have you risen out of a chair and had difficulty with the first few steps of walking? Have you experienced those sharp twinges of back, hip or knee pain?
This difficulty in rising relates to your hip joint. It has to move from a flexed or bent position when sitting to an extended upright position in standing.
Prolonged periods of sitting in a chair keep our hip joints inactive, and the hip muscles dormant.
We sit on our gluteal muscles all day and wonder why they are sagging.
They are sagging from inactivity.
Yet, they activate in an instant with simple movements like walking and stairclimbing.
But are we doing enough to reverse the effects of inactivity?
We depend upon armrests to lift ourselves out of a chair.
We seek railings to help support us as we climb stairs.
We support our weight on shopping carts.
We need to grab bars to lift ourselves off the toilet.
We need things to lean on and lean into for added support while standing.
Consider the last time you took your hips up more than two consecutive flights of stairs.
Do you squat to tie your shoes, which encourages the full range of motion in the hip joint, or do you sit on a chair?
When was the last time you sat cross-legged on the floor?
Can you rise off the floor unassisted?
Have you crawled, hopped, skipped or jumped over the last year?
You don’t have to walk a marathon or climb enough stairs to reach the top of the Eiffel Tower. You don’t have to join a gym and bust out into a sweat.
Simple movements done frequently throughout the day will suffice.
Hips: It’s All About Balance
The hip joints are compared to a teeter-totter in the body.
As humans, we walk on two legs with equal loads shared between the right and left sides. The sharing of the load between two sides makes the human being a balanced load on two feet instead of four.
In walking, the hips, knees, ankles, and feet propel body the body forward. The upper body, spine, and shoulders travel along, maintaining the upright posture.
As the body works as a unit, unbalanced and inactive hips can create a ripple effect of problems in other parts of the body.
If your hips are under-employed in a day, the good news is that it doesn’t take much to get them functioning again.
To start them firing, here is one movement you can do daily at your desk:
Sit to Stand
Sitting on the edge of your chair with your feet on the floor and hands clasped behind your head. Rise out of the chair unassisted. Once you are standing, rise on your tiptoes with your knees straight. Sit back down. Repeat 10 times.
Walking and climbing stairs are other ways to activate your hips throughout the day.
So keep your hip joints employed for life by giving them a daily call to action.
Be the aging creature that walks on two legs rather than three.