From soggy bottoms to a saggy bottom, getting older brings a certain rear end fascination.
Growing up I remember jokes about ‘all the sand slipping to the bottom’ and how it was almost inevitable that a woman’s bottom would droop and soften with age.
But it isn’t. Far from it in fact. Not only is a saggy bottom completely avoidable but loss of muscle and tone, specifically in this area can seriously affect your health as you age. From back pain to bunions.
How your bottom looks may be important to you but we’re more concerned about whether it’s up to the job.
Lack of muscle in your bottom (as well as other areas of your body) could seriously affect your health.
Disappearing Butt Syndrome?
Disappearing butt syndrome (let’s call it DBS) is something we spend a lot of time preventing, mainly from a functional perspective.
The muscle mass around your bum is known as your glutes (gluteals). Well-developed glutes look like a heart shape, since the muscle mass at the top creates the curve and their shape narrows as they go down to your legs. Glutes that have wasted away make your bum look like the heart is upside down (your bottom appears bigger around the back of your legs than it is around the hips).
DBS is inevitable without intervention. As we age, we lose muscle. Muscle loss (muscle atrophy) due to ageing, is called sarcopenia.
The rate of sarcopenia is 1-2% per year after the age of 50. Even though you will generally lose muscle from all over your body, you will notice it most around your bum, hips and shoulders. These are the areas which hold your shape and accentuate your frame. Without them, you’ll have no padding to your skeleton.
Colin Jackson (British Hurdler) was commenting on an athlete who was about to retire from athletics. He joked, “I couldn’t believe how my bum disappeared when I wasn’t training as much!”
What do Glutes Do?
Here are a few things glutes do:
- Create stability for the knee and hip preventing your knee from caving in (which can contribute to hip, knee and back pain);
- Support the spine;
- Help you to stand;
- Drive the leg backwards when you run or walk;
- Help you get up and down from a seated position;
- Take pressure off your back; and
- Help prevent bunions.
Modern life is rife with places that will create DBS. Stairs, lifts, cars etc. all contribute to lack of use.
If anyone has been to India, they might be familiar with Western v Indian toilets. When we travelled around Southern India, we noticed the toilets were much lower than the ones we were used to. In some cases, you had to squat right down to the floor. There was no toilet for older people. Everyone had to be able to do a low squat.
Many people aren’t able to perform a good squat, unless they have been taught (which is more like they’ve forgotten how to as kids can perform excellent squats). If you had to squat everyday just to use the toilet, you would go a long way in preventing DBS.
How Can You Prevent DBS and Muscle Atrophy?
- Resistance training. It is possible to build muscle over a 12 week period with the correct stress and the correct nutrition. Especially if you are new to resistance training and even if you have lost muscle mass.
- Continually use it. Don’t avoid the stairs. Try not to use the handrails too much and squat everyday (without using your hands to get out of a chair).
- Eat enough food. Muscle building occurs when there is stress to the muscle and there are enough calories to create new muscle growth. Without making it too complicated, you need healthy carbohydrates, protein and good fats. All are essential to muscle building.
Scientists are working frantically to create drugs to help prevent muscle loss in older people. This is how seriously they take it.
We all need to take it more seriously.
Unfortunately, muscle building has had some bad PR mainly due to the bodybuilding industry.
The health benefits of muscle building are extensive and we don’t feel enough people see it as something to focus on.
It’s worth considering that you will go through periods where you might lose muscle mass through injury or illness (as we all have). If you haven’t got a good base to start from, you’ll be even weaker following a period of enforced sedentary behaviour due to illness.
How to get a strong and healthy bottom
If you would like more information on resistance training to prevent muscle atrophy please get in touch. This doesn’t mean hours pumping iron in a gym, we could set up a simple one to one or group training session to get you moving. Personal and group training isn’t an elitest way to exercise, and in the long run, it’s cheaper than long term physio.
We also have an online, Fit School Hub, which takes you step by step through the basics of a strength and conditioning programme. It’s like a DIY strength coach except that you get to ask us questions. If you’d like to know more, just drop us an email or sign up to our weekly fitness newsletter (sign up at the bottom of the page).
Please do share this with anyone you feel would benefit.
For more information on exercise and the ageing process read: Want to keep up with your grandkids? Don’t make age your excuse
To see Chris explain and demonstrate how to get your glutes working, watch this short YouTube video.