— Life —

WHAT HAPPENS TO A WOMAN’S BUTT AFTER 50

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In a recent post, Brenda suggested if we wear tight leggings, some of us might want to cover our bums. Unfortunately that’s true, because there comes a time when we might want to cover the things that don’t look as nice as they did when we were young, perky, and had lots of strong collagen. When I look in the mirror, I can tip my head, smile, cross my legs just so, and I think I look pretty good, even at 67. 

But grab another mirror, turn around, and it’s quite a different story.

Did you know that as we age, all of the discs in our spine dehydrate and slowly lose their fluid? This process shortens our spine and it’s responsible for some of our loss in height. Our discs compress for the same reason our faces wrinkle and our breasts sag: the loss of integrity of our collagen. It can’t be stopped and certainly not reversed. Yes, there are surgeries where they can stick a spacer between two vertebrae, but you can’t do that to every single disc space. 

And no, hyaluronic acid won’t fix it.

Then there’s the cute little swayed butt we had when we were younger. As we age, that curve begins to flatten because a couple of the discs at the bottom of our spine are trapezoidal, not rectangular, and they dry out. Also for the purpose of having babies, the female pelvis is relatively wide. Add that natural structure to the loss of gluteal muscle mass, and we wind up with a wide flat butt. Men get flat butts too, but they start with greater muscle mass, and a narrower pelvis. And we don’t seem to care… because we like their sense of humor and their eyes… 

There is no vitamin or cream or surgery that will stop the aging process. Aging is bone deep. We can slow a little muscle mass loss, but do so at your own peril, because as we age, squats and aggressive exercise have their costs. Those efforts usually don’t make our butt look like it once did, plus they can result in knee and back pain. They’re why I have a job, and as an orthopedic surgeon, I recommend loving acceptance of our butts. This thing that has brought us so far. I also prescribe wearing longer tops, instead of trying to lose more weight and build up our butt muscles.  

So, that’s what happens to women’s butts after 50. And yes, it may be easier to cover them.


25 Comments

  • Reply Joanna March 21, 2022 at 11:51 am

    Personally, I think all women, regardless of age should cover their butts when out in public. I’ve seen even young women who have flat, wide, or saggy butts. It’s not a good look! Leggings are meant for exercising, not as pants. If you’re going to wear them out, be discreet and wear a long top.

    • Reply Barbara Bergin March 21, 2022 at 1:19 pm

      Absolutely. There are only a small percentage of women of any age whose butts look really good.

  • Reply Theresa March 21, 2022 at 11:58 am

    Who knew? Then there’s what happens to my chin and my jowls and my neck! My thighs!!! My feet. I’ll get depressed if I keep thinking about all the things that don’t look like they used to. If we were Muslim we could just cover everything with a burka. You and Brenda are right. Most of the butts I see need to be covered including mine.

  • Reply Donna O'Klock March 21, 2022 at 12:07 pm

    Donna

    • Reply Barbara Bergin March 21, 2022 at 8:59 pm

      Hey Donna! Did you have a question or comment? You’ve heard my no squat lecture before!

  • Reply Sue March 21, 2022 at 12:33 pm

    “Loving acceptance of our butts.” Yes! This article raised my Monday spirits in so many ways.

    • Reply Barbara Bergin March 21, 2022 at 1:23 pm

      Yes, you get it. Don’t try to bust your ass in order to change what nature has deemed saggy. Why am I writing about it? I’m an orthopedic surgeon. Patients actually make appointments to ask me about this. Or more commonly, they make appointments because they’ve injured their knees trying to fix it. Acceptance of the aesthetic, and exercising for the sake of your health.

  • Reply Lori March 21, 2022 at 12:55 pm

    Shocked that this is written by an MD! Done properly squats will NOT hurt your knees. Who cares what your “butt” looks like honestly?! It’s important to stay strong as you age, to maintain functional fitness, so you can lift things, get out of a chair, get down on the floor and back up again etc. Yes, aging is part of life but complete deterioration of the body is not inevitable. Strong muscles are the best way to avoid knee and back pain. Maybe I have misunderstood and this was meant as a joke?!

    • Reply Barbara Bergin March 21, 2022 at 8:57 pm

      I sent this comment to another response because I thought the reply icon went after the person’s comment. So I just copied it and pasted in the right place.

      Thanks for your comment, and no, it’s not a joke. You will never see me write something false, as a joke. I might write with a little sense of humor, as that is my MO, but why would I care? Really. Why do I care about womens’ butts? Is it because I’ve invested in the tunic industry? No! It’s because I see older women tearing themselves up doing aggressive exercise programs, most of which include squats, and I recognize that the exercise industry has become invested in women doing squats. No one comes to see me because their butt looks beautiful and they have no pain. They come wait in my lobby and pay their co-pay to see me because they’re in pain. They’ve hurt their knees doing squats because they read a magazine article or talked to a trainer who says you need to do squats to maintain a rounded, firm butt. A lifetime of getting in and out of chairs and up from toilets, walking and doing light exercise can make you able to get in and out of chairs. I’ll do a post on the reasons we can’t get in and out of chairs another day. Thanks for reminding me!

      • Reply Lori March 22, 2022 at 9:35 am

        Thank you for your reply Dr. Bergin, that helps me to see where your coming from. Maybe a distinction should be made between squats done correctly and squats done incorrectly? Proper form is so important – butt back, chest up, weight in heels and knees should never be ahead of toes. The big muscle groups should be carrying the load not the knees. Is there another exercise or set of exercises you would recommend to keep these muscles strong? Maybe walking up hills? I love squats but maybe they’re not for everyone. I walk more than run because I find the impact of running to be hard on my knees. I’ve been reading on your blog about shoulders as I’ve had a nagging shoulder injury- it’s been helpful, thanks! Appreciate your unique perspective on how to avoid landing yourself in an orthopedic surgeon’s office!

        • Reply Barbara Bergin March 28, 2022 at 6:44 pm

          Thanks for checking out my blog. I’ve taken a little hiatus, while moving a household, but plan to pick it up in the future. My perspective comes from one who has seen many conditions, natural physical liabilities, as well as injuries. Just trying to help. Thanks for your thoughts. Certain squats can be tolerated by some, but many will suffer. Stay in shape! Sounds like you are!

  • Reply Colleen March 21, 2022 at 1:28 pm

    Oh, no!! I do squats every day and not for my butt. My Physical Therapist recommended squats for my scoliosis.

    • Reply Barbara Bergin March 21, 2022 at 1:45 pm

      Hmmm. Not sure what to tell you about that. Physical therapists are also invested in women doing squats? Maybe. Uh…yes they are. I have to write notes telling them not to have my patients do squats. Not across the board okay. Many of them understand the problematic mechanics of this exercise.

      I’m telling you that I see 5 women a day who have either been injured doing squats or are recovering after I told them to stop. I’m passionate about this, and my very first blog post on my personal blog, http://www.drbarbarabergin.com, was titled, “Do Not Do Squats.” I should promote squats, because I make part of my living from women doing squats! That would be like a dentist advocating for sugar!

      Now some folks ask me if they can please do little squats, or quarter-squats, and I say it’s like when your doc says to stop using sugar, and you ask if it’s okay just to have a little chocolate… I can’t tell you to do some modifications of the squat, because I see some people whose knees are killing them just doing a little deep knee bend. Use your judgement otherwise.

      Remember, you get a script from your doc to your PT saying they need to work on your back. But sometimes in the process, my patients hurt their knees and shoulders. Go figure.

  • Reply Barbara Bergin March 21, 2022 at 1:34 pm

    Thanks for your comment, and no, it’s not a joke. You will never see me write something false, as a joke. I might write with a little sense of humor, as that is my MO, but why would I care? Really. Why do I care about womens’ butts? Is it because I’ve invested in the tunic industry? No! It’s because I see older women tearing themselves up doing aggressive exercise programs, most of which include squats, and I recognize that the exercise industry has become invested in women doing squats. No one comes to see me because their butt looks beautiful and they have no pain. They come wait in my lobby and pay their co-pay to see me because they’re in pain. They’ve hurt their knees doing squats because they read a magazine article or talked to a trainer who says you need to do squats to maintain a rounded, firm butt. A lifetime of getting in and out of chairs and up from toilets, walking and doing light exercise can make you able to get in and out of chairs. I’ll do a post on the reasons we can’t get in and out of chairs another day. Thanks for reminding me!

  • Reply Joan March 21, 2022 at 2:19 pm

    Bravo, Dr. Bergin, I am 82 and have never done knee squats but I had to have a meniscus repair after kneeling on the garden walk to pull weeks, and a few years later a hip replacement on the other side. I can get up off the floor just fine thank you after my yoga floor exercises are completed. I have done yoga, now easy yoga, for many years, but I do have arthritis. Also have kept active with gardening, hiking, and walking every day, as well as having to vacuum once a week because of my allergies to pollen and dust; I do have a cleaner who cleans 2x a month. When you figure in sweeping, and laundry and cooking and taking the trash barrels out to the ally, and dumping the green waste into the barrel I work plenty of muscles.

    I do not like to wear leggings and/or tights, but if I do I wear a tunic to cover my butt. I weighed 131 lbs. at my yearly check up last week and I have lost about 3 inches in height. I have had P.T. for the knee and the hip but it never involved knee squats. Thanks for the warning.

    • Reply Barbara Bergin March 21, 2022 at 8:54 pm

      Sounds like you’re doing all the right stuff! Sometimes our meniscus cartilage and concomitant development of osteoarthritis are just in the cards.

  • Reply Jamie March 21, 2022 at 2:40 pm

    Thanks, I’ll be having nightmares about my discs dehydrating now. Anyway, I would love an article about the best way women over 50 can maintain bone mass and stay strong.

    • Reply Barbara Bergin March 28, 2022 at 6:58 pm

      Of course you should get direction from your primary care doc or ob-gyn. Most orthopedic surgeons are not that interested in the medical treatment or prevention of osteoporosis, because we’re busy with injuries and other musculotendinous diseases. The problem is that there are very few docs who are really invested in prevention. If your primary care doc and ob-gyn aren’t that into it, try a local endocrinologist. In general, we should start taking calcium and vitamin D3 supplements as we reach menopause, but we’re not all the same in that regard. Some of us are genetically more likely to suffer, or suffer earlier. Some have had hysterectomies…but were the ovaries removed. MANY women have started life with a small bone density. Small, thin athletic teens, for example. In men, we respect large muscle mass. In our athletic girls, we encourage thinness. This leads to malnutrition, hormonal issues and can lead to low bone density, so they start their adult lives with a lower bone density. Therefore, as they reach menopause, they are behind the curve. Women who have been extremely thin their whole lives should start checking bone density a little earlier. Some people have kidney disease or other disorders which affect calcium metabolism. This is why we should be followed by someone interested in dealing with bone density. Bottom line, most of us who have reached menopause should be taking Vitamin D3 and calcium supplements. We should be doing some kind of weight bearing exercise and balance improving exercises (like single leg standing). And don’t fall down.

  • Reply MK March 21, 2022 at 3:23 pm

    Bravo! Terrific article-expertise and experience combined to help women.
    Thanks you!

  • Reply LD March 21, 2022 at 4:04 pm

    Thank you for speaking the authoritative truth.! I’m in physical therapy and have been off and on for many years for a very bad back. My PT has never asked me to do squats but I do think some of my exercises were very close but modified. I will be speaking with her about your article and comments. I plan to go to your blog and include it on my list.

    • Reply Barbara Bergin March 28, 2022 at 7:01 pm

      Don’t be surprised if she contradicts my recommendations. Even the physical therapists are sometimes invested in the culture of squats for us gals. It’s different for healthy men. Their bodies are put together better for squats. Now, as they age, they begin to have problems too. My son did heavy squats as a youth, while training for football, and sheared a piece of articular cartilage right off the surface of his knee as a result. This will come back to haunt him someday. Fortunately, he listened to his mom/orthopod, and no longer does them.

  • Reply ELL Worth March 21, 2022 at 4:06 pm

    Thank you for speaking the authoritative truth.! I’m in physical therapy and have been off and on for many years for a very bad back. My PT has never asked me to do squats but I do think some of my exercises were very close but modified. I will be speaking with her about your article and comments. I plan to go to your blog and include it on my list.

  • Reply Beckye March 25, 2022 at 7:42 pm

    I have to confess I was sad to read in Brenda’s blog that our butts get flat and wide. That has been one of my best features. Another thing I’ll be letting go of as I become a woman of a certain age. So thank you Barbara, for telling us the truth and preparing me. Also for the heads-up on squats! Otherwise I might have ended up as a patient! Loved your post! Thank you.

    • Reply Barbara Bergin March 28, 2022 at 7:03 pm

      It’s funny how our body culture changes. When I was a teen, we wanted a flat butt and thin lips. I was very fashionable…

  • Reply Leisa Hammett April 5, 2022 at 8:25 pm

    I struggle with finding long tops. And I need them to be affordable. No more than $100.

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