Usually, a visit to a doctor’s office involves stepping on the dreaded scales. Unfortunately, the number on the scale isn’t typically one that is shrinking from visit to visit! But, a measurement of height might be a different story as we progress in years.
“In a French study, for instance, researchers measured 8,600 women over 60 and found that they overestimated their height by an inch, on average, and had lost about 2 inches from their tallest recalled height,” says berkeleywellness.com.
This roller coaster ride called “Life” we’re on can take a toll on our physical bodies, especially our backbones! Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, explains in yoga-teacher-training.org, “Our backbone is made up of vertebrae and intervertebral disks, which work as cushions between vertebrae. As time passes, and the aging process begins, these disks start to shrink and lose water content or fluid present in them. This is also the reason why people lose their height as they age.”
And uamshealth.com notes, “Dr. Pham Liem, a geriatrician at the UAMS Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, says that we can shrink for several different reasons.
‘Older adults can get shorter because the cartilage between their joints gets worn out and osteoporosis causes the spinal column to become shorter,” he says. “Adults can also lose lean muscle mass but gain fat. This is a condition called sarcopenia.’
Sarcopenia is characterized by a decrease in muscle mass, which leads to weakness and frailty and also a decrease in height. Osteoporosis causes bones to become weak and fracture, which can also cause a person to become shorter.”
In the Huffington Post, Ellen Dolgen, women’s health and wellness advocate, states, “Starting at about age 40, people typically lose about half an inch each decade, according to Harvard Medical School.” She goes on to say, “One study of more than 3,000 adults published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research found that women over the age 70 who lose two or more inches in two years are 21 percent more likely to fracture a hip in the next two years than are women who shrink less.”
The National Center for Biotechnology Information published a manuscript/study that indicates, “Height shrinkage, and to a lesser extent pre-shrinkage height, are also correlated with many later-life health outcomes, particularly cognition and biomarker measures. The shrinkage coefficients tend to be larger than for pre-shrinkage height, suggesting that current health issues are important in understanding the health of the elderly, not just events in early childhood. In general, the more the shrinkage the worse are these other health outcomes.”
Citing the same study, theatlantic.com says, “What the researchers show here is that height loss, too, can tell us something about how healthy we are. In adulthood, lifestyle factors that wear heavy on the bones, like drinking, smoking, and inactivity, promote shrinkage. Factors like education and where we live may affect our health — and height — in less obvious ways, perhaps because of the ways in which they are related to those lifestyle factors. And while it isn’t clear, either, how a causal link between a decline in cognition and a decline in stature could possibly work, efforts to promote and preserve cognitive health might help older adults remain tall, or vice versa.”
To counteract the apparently inevitable effects of aging on height, livestrong.com notes, “Some physical therapists and other medical professionals believe certain exercises can help decompress the disks of the spine and alleviate the symptoms of spinal decompression. Always check with your doctor before using exercises and stretches to alleviate spinal compression.”
Rachel Wilber, in fitfluential.com suggests, “Many recent medical studies have found that yoga has many health benefits, including a reduction of spinal compression symptoms. Focused yoga for back pain improves your posture, boosts your flexibility and improves your overall strength.
Practicing yoga improves your posture. During yoga classes, you will learn how to properly align your spine while seated and standing. When your spine is in proper alignment, the discs between your vertebrae will have enough space to spread out. They will decompress, allowing them to move freely in the intravertebral space, like they are supposed to. Practicing yoga regularly will help you to maintain a good posture.
By keeping the soft tissues of your back flexible, you can improve the symptoms of spinal compression such as stiffness and a loss of range of motion.
Practicing yoga restores the fluid balance of the discs in your spine. These discs naturally lose fluid as a person grows older. Professionals, such as those at Southwest Florida Neurosurgical & Rehab Associates know that when discs lose too much moisture, they become brittle, causing them to compress close together. A focused yoga routine practiced on a regular basis restores the fluid and blood flow to these discs. This helps to keep the discs strong and more flexible. It also reduces your risk of a fractured vertebra.”
And in the Huffington Post article previously mentioned, “Israeli researchers who measured more than 2,000 men and women in 1965 and 1995 found that those who exercised, either throughout their lives or just after they turned 40, lost about half as much height as those who had never exercised or stopped working out during middle age.”
“The physical practice of holding Yoga postures (asanas) is often referred to as the best for elongating muscles, lengthening the backbone, and strengthening the abdominal region. A regular practice of physical Yoga training and posturing provides a number of noticeable health advantages, along with spinal decompression,” notes Paul Jerard (referenced earlier in yoga-teacher-training.com).
Valerie Kiser, owner and director of Sunrise Yoga Studio and co-owner of East Coast Yoga Therapy, suggests, “Yoga teaches us to stand tall on our own two feet – both figuratively and literally. When we work in standing poses and seated poses, we focus on elongating the spine to improve posture, breathing capacity, and even digestion.”
While all yoga poses ultimately assist in strengthening the spine, Valerie suggests the Mountain pose, hanging in Dog pose, and, giving the yoga wall a try.
She says, “Hanging on the Yoga Wall allows us to experience gravity in a different way. It feels great to the spine AND the brain!”
If you aren’t “measuring up” height wise, consider giving yoga a try. You may find that, with consistent practice, you will literally stand taller and, because yoga is a mind, body, spirit connection, internally stand taller as well. Ditch the 4” heels and turn the shrinking into body lengthening power!
Questions? Email us at info@SunriseYoga.net!
Trying to find a class? Want to give the yoga wall a try? Check out our yoga class schedule and come visit us at the studio!