As we age, we tend to become happier, liberal and in many cases remain pretty darn sharp. Unfortunately, though, gravity is not our friend as we age. Let’s face it – our body shape changes as we age. We naturally begin to sag in places that we never thought possible. You cannot avoid some of these changes, but your lifestyle choices may slow or speed the process.
Whether you begin as an apple or a pear, your overall body shape will also probably shift with time. You will notice changes in your hair, nails, skin, bones, heart, lungs, and more. This transformation is due to factors that fall into two main categories: those you can’t control, and those you can. Body shape changes that occur, are closely connected to lifestyle factors like exercise, smoking and diet.
So what actually happens…
Well after the age 30, people tend to lose lean tissue and your muscles, liver, kidney, and other organs may lose some of their cells. This process of muscle loss is called atrophy.
Bones may lose some of their minerals and become less dense and tissue loss reduces the amount of water in your body.
The amount of body fat goes up steadily after age 30. Older people may have almost one third more fat compared to when they were younger. Fat tissue builds up toward the center of the body, including around the internal organs. However, the layer of fat under the skin gets smaller.
Excess body fat and changes in body shape can affect your balance. These body changes can make falls more likely. Changes in total body weight vary for men and woman. Men often gain weight until about age 55, and then begin to lose weight later in life. This may be related to a drop in the male sex hormone testosterone. Women usually gain weight until age 65, and then begin to lose weight. Weight loss later in life occurs partly because fat replaces lean muscle tissue, and fat weighs less than muscle.
Height loss is related to aging changes in the bones, muscles, and joints. People typically lose about 1 cm (almost one-half inch) every 10 years after age 40. Height loss is even more rapid after age 70. Less leg muscles and stiffer joints can make moving around harder.
Ok enough already! Let’s get started on lifestyle choices that reduce age-related body changes by:
- Get regular exercise – get in the rhythm of a daily routine; I have and am now power walking 4.5 – 6 kms daily.
- Eat a healthy diet that includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and the right amounts of healthy fats.
- Limit your alcohol use.
- Avoid tobacco products and illicit drugs.
As I researched studies on body image, aging and attractiveness, one of the things that I discovered was how many women noted that a barrier to their self image made them self conscious after feeling pretty good about themselves. This was attributed to other people’s comments and often unsolicited ones. Whether we think we’re being helpful, our words have a huge impact on other people.
Our choice to be happy with ourselves is decided by us — the owners of our body — there are a lot of things that weigh on that decision or affect that ability. Our friends, families, doctors, and society’s idea of what makes a body valuable all influence our idea of what we’re “allowed” to like and be proud of, too. Let’s encourage people of all genders around us to see the good in their bodies and see the value.
Oh and one last thing: If you laugh a lot when you get older – your wrinkles will be in all the right places!