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What You Need to Know About Your Hips as You Age and Exercise
The hip joint represents an important connecting point between the lower extremity and the trunk. In activities such as walking, running, hopping and jumping the hip joint is able to resist forces far above the weight of the body and at the same time allow considerable mobility during those activities. The hip is a special type of ball-and-socket joint and is the second-largest joint in the body (the knee is the largest).
The hip joint is the one that is most often discussed as people get older because it is often afflicted with arthritis of aging. It is a misconception that exercise such as running and walking is detrimental to your joints. There is no evidence to support this belief. Frankly, it is simply a myth that you can “wear down” your knees and hips from average levels of exercise. Rather, the evidence points to exercise as having a positive impact on your joints if you exercise enough to lose weight or at least maintain your ideal body weight and you can reduce your risk of developing hip and knee osteoarthritis.
Due to its inexpensive nature, accessibility, and perceived health benefits, running is one of the most popular recreational and competitive exercise activities in the United States, and its popularity is growing. A study published in 2013 by Williams demonstrated that running actually reduces the risk of osteoarthritis development and hip replacement surgery risk.
So the important point is to stay active, keep your hips moving and when starting an exercise program start slowly and be consistent.
Reference: Williams, P.T. (2013). Effects of running and walking on osteoarthritis and hip replacement risk. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 45(7), 1292-7.
Chris Dollar, PT, DPT, is Coordinator of Clinical Education for OrthoCarolina’s SouthPark Physical Therapy office.
This article was originally published on March 24, 2014, and has been updated on February 10, 2020.