During the aging process, our bodies go through many natural changes. Some of these changes are caused by lifestyle factors like our diet or exercise routines. Some are caused by our genetic makeup.
But why does our body shape change? Why do we lose inches off our height and add inches to our waist? And why does our muscle mass change?
Scientists believe that many age-related changes are caused by a process called “senescence.” During senescence, the cells in our body grow older and lose certain functions.
Researchers still have a lot to learn about the aging process. But we know quite a bit about the reasons behind some common body shape changes.
In this post, you’ll learn more about the top changes to expect in your body as you age. You’ll also find out the medical reasons behind this transformation.
Keep reading for more on body shape change over time!
Body Shape Change by Gender
Your biological gender determines your body shape in several different ways. The hormones your body produces control how you develop in childhood and puberty.
But did you know that these gender-related differences can also affect the way we age?
Beginning in middle age, women go through a process called menopause. As women stop menstruating, the levels of estrogen in their bodies also go down.
This hormonal change causes a change in women’s fat distribution. After menopause, women carry more weight in their midsections. This is a normal weight shift that most women will experience.
Instead of estrogen, men lose testosterone later in life. This process can cause men to gain weight around their hips and midsections.
Of course, it’s important to track significant changes in your body fat. Once your waist size increases past a certain point, your risk of experiencing a heart attack skyrockets.
Keeping track of your weight and making regular visits to your doctor can help you prevent serious conditions.
Why Do We Shrink?
It is normal to experience shrinking as you age. This height loss typically begins in our 40’s.
The reasons behind this shrinking process vary along with your personal health background. Some people experience a thinning of their bones over the years.
When bones become weak and brittle, certain individuals develop a condition called osteoporosis. This bone disease can reduce height in serious cases.
For other adults, the cartilage between joints can wear out. This can shrink the distance between the vertebrae in our spine. The reduced distance here can knock a couple of inches off your total height.
Changes in Body Fat
As noted above, the location of our body fat can change throughout aging. But what about the amount of body fat?
One review found that adults tend to gain one to two pounds per year as we age. The reasons behind this are often the result of lifestyle factors. Working at a sedentary job, for example, can lead to extra pounds.
A couple of pounds in one year is not a serious weight change. But the pounds pile on with the years, which can put you at risk of developing obesity later in life.
Some causes of age-related weight gain include:
- Lifestyle factors like added stress
- A slowing metabolism
- Age-related hormonal changes
- Lack of sufficient exercise
Fortunately, most changes in your body weight are preventable. You can make adjustments to your calorie intake to account for a slowing metabolism.
Following a regular exercise routine and staying hydrated can also help you avoid age-related weight gain.
What About the Muscles?
As we get older, our muscles naturally shrink. Researchers don’t understand exactly why this happens. But they suspect it’s related to the natural wear and tear our bodies experience over time.
Changes in activity level might also cause reductions in your muscle fibers. Without proper exercise, muscles naturally weaken and shrink over time.
Decreasing levels of hormones like testosterone can also reduce your muscle size.
Just like increases in body fat, age-related changes in your muscles can be reduced. Following an accessible strength-training routine can keep your muscles toned throughout your life.
Eating a diet high in lean fats and protein will also help your muscles stay on track. If you’re concerned about age-related changes like muscle loss, take some time to learn more about how you can maintain a healthy shape.
Our Transforming Skin
You will also notice changes to your skin across the aging process. In older individuals, skin is less thick and elastic. Wrinkles also develop throughout the body, particularly in areas exposed to excessive sunlight.
The tissues that make our skin strong and flexible degrade over time. Older skin is easier to damage through cuts or tears.
Our skin is full of nerve endings. These endings are sensitive to changes in temperature or pain, and they help us react to danger or injury.
As we age, there are fewer nerve endings in our skin. This makes it easier for older individuals to experience injuries.
One way to keep your skin looking great for years is by avoiding direct sunlight. Lather up with sunscreen or wear a protective hat if you’re planning to spend a lot of time in the sun.
Hydrating your skin regularly can also help you avoid skin-related injuries in later life. Skin that is dry and brittle is more likely to undergo cuts and tears.
We will all experience natural changes to our body shape and appearance during the aging process. By taking good care of our bodies early in life, we can minimize changes to the aging body and protect our long-term health.
Aging Happens to the Best of Us
Thinking about what body shape change we might experience can feel overwhelming.
It’s true that certain aspects of aging are out of our control. But there are many actions we can take today to prevent serious conditions later in life.
By taking care of your body early in life, you can enter your later years with confidence and energy. Aging happens to the best of us. So why not make the most of every stage in life?
Browse around the rest of this section for more lifestyle tips and tricks to staying young!