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Why Your Hips Matter – Experience Life

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Hip problems can affect your lower back, knees, ankles, and feet. Here’s why.

The hips are a central component of the body’s kinetic chain — the system of bones, joints, nerves, muscles, and fascia that work together to move the body. And they do a lot of heavy lifting.

In fact, they help power nearly every move you make, explains Deb Lensing, DPT, OCS, a physical therapist at Life Time’s LifeClinic in Chanhassen, Minn.

Your hips are composed of two ball-and-socket joints, created where the top of the femur, or thighbone, fits into the acetabulum, or hip socket. This is a setup that allows for multidirectional movement and rotation, including flexing (bending) and extending (straightening) your legs; bringing your legs in (adduction) or away from (abduction) your body; and rotating your legs internally and externally.

In other words, when it comes to controlling your lower limbs, the hips are the boss. Let’s take a closer look.

Your primary hip muscles include the glutes (gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus), hip flexors (a group of muscles that allow you to lift your leg), adductors (the inner-thigh muscles that bring your legs together), and the tensor fasciae latae, or TFL.

The abductors are the outer hip muscles that move the leg away from the body and help it rotate at the hip joint. They include the TFL, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus (not shown).

Pay attention to your glutes, says Lensing. The gluteus maximus is a large muscle with potential for tremendous power, but it’s often weaker than it should be, she notes. The gluteus medius and gluteus minimus — the smaller side-butt muscles — play a major role in stabilization. If they aren’t strong enough, other muscles and joints must compensate.

The complex of hip muscles is connected to various points above and below the actual hip joint. Hip muscles attach to the femur, which leads to the knee, ankle, and foot in your lower half. In the upper half, hip muscles connect to the pelvis, which connects to the spine, and from there to the rib cage, abdomen, shoulders, and neck. In this way, your hip muscles link to — and affect — the rest of your body.

Hip weakness or instability can cause problems everywhere — notably in the lower back, knees, and ankles, explains Jennifer Joslyn, DPT, a physical therapist at Motion Minnesota in Minnetonka, Minn., who specializes in treating lower-back and hip pain. Though it’s easy to blame a sedentary lifestyle for hip weakness, even active people may have weaker hips than they realize.

This originally appeared in “Healthy, Happy Hips” from the October 2020 issue of Experience Life.

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Health & Fitness

Which Type of Butter Should You Choose?

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Which butter is better? Here are five varieties to consider.

  1. Organic butter offers more healing omega-3 fatty acids than other butters. And it’s less likely to have high levels of toxins, which can accumulate in an animal’s fatty tissues.
  2. Grassfed butter delivers more beta-carotene and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Beta-carotene is a potent antioxidant, and CLA can help improve body composition and reduce cardiovascular-disease risk. Some studies also show CLA may help protect against cancer.
  3. Cultured butter is slightly fermented or aged. “Fermenting butter increases the amount of butyrate,” says nutritionist Liz Lipski, PhD, which is a win for gut health. It also has a slightly tangy flavor that many people enjoy.
  4. Unsalted butter is largely a matter of taste preference compared with salted butter. Like butter, salt carries its own stigma when it comes to heart health — one that has been debunked in recent years. (For more on concerns about sodium, see “Is Salt Bad for You — Or Not?”.)
  5. Ghee is a clarified butter in which the milk has been heated and the solids skimmed off. It can be used in all the same ways as butter, and because the solids have been removed, it is often more digestible for people who don’t tolerate casein or lactose. It contains the same nutrients as butter, including butyrate. Ghee is stable at room temperature, making it a good option for meals on the go or while camping. (For a tasty recipe for infused ghee, visit “Infused Ghee”.)

This article originally appeared as “Butter Up” in “Everything’s Better With Butter” in the January/February 2021 issue of Experience Life.

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