Remember when you had a waist and curves?
If you’re wondering where they went, you’re not alone – a survey of 18,000 women found that while many women in their 20s and 30s have hourglass figures, older women tend to have more of an ‘apple’ shape, ie a thicker waist.
So why is it that women fill out in this way as they age and what can you do to get those curves back?
Lose fat for your health
Fat tissue accumulates around your waistline, and also farther inside around your abdominal organs. ‘Middle-aged spread’ is, unfortunately, part of the ageing process.
A study from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, California, found that even men who regularly exercised by running put on extra weight around their middle when they hit their 50s. Worrying about a widening waistline isn’t just a question of appearance, however, as it’s also a good indicator that fat is building up around your internal organs, which could impact your health.
Exercising for weight loss
The obvious way to prevent fat build-up is to make sure you eat a healthy balanced diet and to exercise but, as the US study indicates, that might not be enough. The study researchers suggest upping exercise levels as you age to counteract this effect. See your GP, though, before you undertake anything strenuous.
Read our guide to fat burning foods
Your bones can affect your body shape as you age
As you lose minerals, your bones may become less dense. Some bones may even recede as a result – women often experience teeth crowding, for example, because the jaw line actually reduces over time. As your bones act like scaffolding for your muscle and fat tissue, this can mean that parts of your body begin to sag, also changing your shape.
The health of your bones partly relies on your lifestyle in your earlier years – whether you exercised, how you ate and so on, but there is still a lot you can do now: make sure you include some weight-bearing exercises in your regular regime as these have been shown to improve bone strength and include calcium-rich foods in your diet such as yogurt, dark leafy greens and cheese.
How muscle-mass loss can bring on bingo wings
Along with your bones your muscles help hold everything together, but as you age, you naturally lose muscle mass, meaning not only that body tissue doesn’t sit in the same places, but also your skin. Underarm ‘flaps’, rolls around your belly and so on, can all be a result of this process.
Building muscle mass
Although some muscle mass loss is natural as you age, you can fight it with strength-building exercises. These involving pushing or pulling with your body, so lifting weights, or using a resistance band, for example.
Read our guide to strengthening your muscles at home
How height-loss affects your body shape
Tall people naturally look slimmer than shorter people, even if they have similar sizes in terms of circumference. As you age, you lose height and this can also affect your own – and others – perception of your body shape.
Posture tips to help you look taller
While you can’t make yourself taller, you can work on your posture and add the illusion of height that way. Try standing against a wall: your body should touch the wall at the back of your head, at shoulder and bottom. That’s the stance to maintain. And, of course, you could always cheat with a pair of heels or in-steps!
Hormone imbalance can affect your body shape
As you age your hormone levels fluctuate and scientists theorise that they are at least partly to blame for changes in our figures as we age. Men’s testosterone levels tend to fall and women’s oestrogen levels, too.
Exercise and healthy eating is the way
Hormone replacement therapy may help although there are associated risks. Perhaps a more healthy option is to accept that while your body will change to some degree as you age, you can at least stay in good shape by eating well and exercising often.
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