If you struggle with hip and thigh pain, exercise might be the last thing you want to do. Pushing yourself too hard can certainly make the pain worse, but sitting around all day will increase muscle tension and weakness, leading to more pain. Talk to your doctor before you begin any new exercise routine, particularly if you have severe pain or an injury.
Yoga can help you improve your range of motion and alleviate tension and pain in your hips and thighs. If you're new to yoga, try a beginner yoga class or yoga DVD, which will teach you basic, easy maneuvers upon which you can build. The Happy Baby, Fire Log, Full Boat and Bound Angle poses can each help you loosen up your hips without requiring any special skill.
A few targeted stretches can help loosen up tense thighs and hips. Try lying lengthwise against a doorway, with your hips even with the doorway. Extend the leg closest to the doorway straight up against the doorway, and push against the doorway till you feel a stretch. Hold for 30 seconds, and then switch sides. Next, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat. Lift your right leg, with your knee still bent, and put your ankle over your thigh. Grab the thigh of your left leg and pull it toward your chest. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat with your other leg.
Aerobic exercise gets your whole body moving and can help the muscles of your thighs and hips work with other muscle groups, improving your strength and coordination. Walking is an easy beginner aerobic exercise, but if you have joint pain, try swimming instead. The water will ease joint pain and help you move in a low-impact way. As you gain strength, try graduating to more strenuous activities, such as cycling and jogging.
Strengthening the muscles of your hips and thighs can help you even out muscle imbalances, making it easier -- and less painful -- to move. Try bodyweight exercises such as squats and lunges, which don't require a gym membership or any special equipment. If you want something a little more challenging, try a leg press or rowing machine at your local gym.