You work out hard at the gym and keep your body fat at an enviable 16% but still, your hips and waistline seem to be expanding. What gives? It’s not your imagination. Your slowly expanding girth is a phenomenon is a product of the aging process. The good news is your hips aren’t wider because you have more body fat in that region. It’s actually your pelvic bones that are widening. Who would have thought?
You Get Wider Hips as You Age
Researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine documented this phenomenon of expanding hips and waistlines. They measured the pelvis and hip width of volunteers between the ages of 20 and 79 using a CT scan. When they did, they made the discovery that pelvic width increases with age starting around the time a person stops growing. In fact, you’ll add about an inch to your pelvis from age 20 to about age 80. This not only causes your hips to wide but your waistline as well. So if you can’t slip into those skinny jeans you wore in high school anymore, it may not be because you’re gained body fat. It could be because your pelvis has widened.
Women naturally have wider hips than men because of the female sex hormone estrogen. Girls start to have a widening of their pelvis around the time of puberty under the influence of estrogen. In most women, hips widen enough during this time to exceed the width of their shoulders. Pelvic widening is nature’s way of ensuring that a woman won’t have a problem giving birth. Still widening of the pelvic bones with age affects both men and women equally.
How to Make Your Waist and Hips Look Smaller
There’s not much you can do about the expansion of your pelvic bones, but you can compensate for an expanding waistline by broadening your shoulders through resistance training. This creates the illusion of smaller hips and a tinier waistline. Exercises that target the medial deltoid region are best. These include upright rows, clean and presses and side-lateral raises. The military press also works the medial deltoids in conjunction with the anterior deltoids. Focusing on medial shoulder exercises using heavier weights will define the sides of your shoulders and make you look smaller in your waist and hips by comparison.
Most women don’t work their shoulders hard enough because they believe they’ll bulk up or look too masculine. You won’t get big muscles from lifting weights. Women don’t have the hormonal make-up for that. You’ll just look more defined and balanced. As female lose muscle mass with age, their shoulders and upper arms become less defined as their hips and waistlines expand. It’s not a good combination. More shoulder training can offset these age-related changes in physique.
The Bottom Line?
Now there’s even more reason to pump iron as you age. Work on keeping your shoulders defined through resistance training, and you’ll never even notice your waistline isn’t as small as it used to be – thanks to your slowly expanding pelvic bones.
Fitness Prescription for Women. October 2011. Page 30.
Journal of Orthopaedic Research. doi: 10.1002/jor.21469.