In youth, we think we’re invincible. As years pass and we mature, we know better. There is a point when instead of growing and thriving, our bodies begin to break down. There are obvious signs, wrinkles seemly appear overnight, hair thins, increased difficulty losing a couple of pounds.
Not surprising the young want to be old, and the old want to be young.
Change is inevitable and with change comes good news. A couple of decades ago playing professional football older than 30 was unheard of. Look at Tom Brady, arguably the finest quarterback of all time, in his 40's! Same with Tiger Woods, and he took a sabbatical for several years. Part of this is improved physical training to avoid injury, though Tiger has experienced many injuries and surgeries as a result.
Madonna, in her 60's, Cher, in her 70's, Jane Fonda, in her 80's. All look amazing and all have one thing in common:
Keeping in shape is a priority.
So, is 50 the new 40? I wholeheartedly say yes. If you don't believe this, pull out a picture of your grandparents and figure out how old they were when the photo was taken. Enough said.
Some height loss is normal with aging.
Beginning around age 30, people begin to lose height at about a quarter of an inch per decade. Height loss is accelerated as we get older. It is not uncommon to lose a full inch by the time we reach 60. Not only do you lose height, but your upper back suffers as well, causing a knot between shoulder blades.
Here are the leading causes of height loss.
Discs thin because of constant compression, a load on each disc when you are vertical - standing or sitting. The other reason for thinning discs is desiccation - the discs lose moisture; they dry out. Interestingly, discs re-hydrate over night and because they are under no compression when lying down. We are actually a bit taller after sleeping than we were the night before.
Another factor is bone loss, osteoporosis. Osteoporosis literally means porous bone. Some bone cells die off at a higher rate than new bone cells are produced. Osteoporosis is more dominant in women - about 50% of women show bone loss, while in men it is about 30%. Genetically men start off with greater bone mass than women, thus bone loss is more evident in women.
When bones become osteoporotic, the anterior aspect of the vertebrae is more vulnerable to height loss because there is less bone mass than the posterior aspect of the vertebrae. When the anterior aspect is compromised, the spine naturally curves forward.
SHORTENING OF SPINAL LIGAMENTS
Individual vertebra are held together by spinal ligaments. Ligaments are white in color because they are less vascular, less blood, than in muscle. Therefore, muscles are highly vascular and dark red in color. Because ligaments are less vascular, their ability to heal is slower - 'better to break the ankle than to sprain the ankle'.
Ligaments lose their flexibility faster than muscles do, and they also take longer to gain flexibility.
Loss of flexibility continues to shorten spinal ligaments thus decreasing joint space. In other words, the ligaments get shorter which pulls the bones closer together.
FAR AND AWAY poor stooped posture is the most dominant factor in height loss.
Stooped posture encompasses all other factors listed above. Shortening of spinal ligaments means loss of spinal flexibility and continuous pressure applied to the discs. This constant pressure thins the discs and dries them out.
Osteoporosis is both genetic and caused by life style. With less movement and weight bearing activity (activity being the key word), the bones become more porous and brittle. (This stooped posture can even lead to a Buffalo Hump.)
Stooped posture puts undo load on some vertebra and little load on others. The thoracic vertebra are most vulnerable to this inequality and are the most common area for compression injuries, fractures.
You needn't be 80 to notice a loss in height. People half that age complain of getting shorter.
There is something to be said for the downward dog, a yoga pose. This fundamental yoga move is to elongate the spine. Elongating the spine means lengthening spinal ligaments and increasing the joint space between the vertebra. This boils down to increasing spinal flexibility.
Spinal flexibility can be achieved through yoga, pilates, barre, and stretching.
The easiest and correct way to re-hydrate spinal discs is through movement and flexibility. Remember, the more rigid the spine, the more pressure is placed on the discs. The more flexible the spine, the taller you stand.
A proven method to avoid osteoporosis is through weight bearing exercises. Lifting and carrying more weight. Don't be mislead by thinking that gaining body weight will help. Gaining weight is a double edged sword, it may help with decreasing bone loss but it also creates increased and a constant load to the joints. And not only in the spine, but also the hips, knees, feet. Then the medical problems like high blood pressure and diabetes. (Even a posture corrector for women might be able to help.) Do posture correctors work, is a very great question to ask when you're shopping for a brand new one.
The BEST weight bearing exercises are dynamic. Walking AND carrying hand weights is much better than just doing bicep curls while standing or sitting still. Playing sports; golf, tennis, swimming, dancing, are all much better than using a piece of exercise equipment. There are exceptions to this, like a rowing machine.
The point is, move your body!
If you don't know where to start, check out this quick guide. In addition, there are plenty of Youtube videos teaching great, dynamic exercises. If you are not all that active, take it easy at first. Remember the ligaments take longer to lengthen than it does to bulk up a muscle. The last thing you need on your quest to getting into better shape and standing taller is to get injured!
Try these four easystretches before you get out of bed. It will wake up your back before putting your feet on the floor.
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