Many people are worried about their backside. However, I’d suggest that, as we age, our focus in relation to this body part is misdirected. Instead of being concerned primarily about the appearance of our backside, we really need to start thinking about how these muscles work together to keep us safely standing.
A new study published in the Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics suggests that part of the reason older people fall to is due to a physiological change in the gluteal muscles. The researchers studied Japanese women between the ages of 66-97 who had experienced a fall, as well as a control group of women of the same age that had not fallen. Their analysis found that the women who fell had significantly more fat than muscle in two of the three gluteal muscles (the gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius and the gluteus minimus). These three gluteal muscles stabilize the pelvis and hips during physical activity. As we age, we may develop fatty streaks in the gluteus maximus, which then start to show up in the other two gluteal muscles. These fatty streaks then cause instability in the hips.
Strengthening the gluteal muscles can also help ease lower back pain and reduce the stress on your knees. So how can we strengthen these muscles? Here are some exercises suggested by Real Simple and the American Council on Exercise:
- Full-leg contractions: This exercise requires you to begin in a wide squat. You then raise up on the ball of your right foot and squeeze your leg and rear-end muscles. After holding that stance for a few seconds, repeat it on the left side.
- Side-lying leg lift: Lie on your side with your head supported by a pillow. Bend the knee of the top leg and place the instep of that foot just below the other leg’s knee. You should then raise and lower the top leg like a hinge. Keep your pelvis tucked-under and stabilized throughout the exercise. Do 8 to 10 repetitions before switching sides. This exercise works both the gluteus medius and the minimus muscles.
- Hamstring curl: In a standing position, lift your right foot toward your butt and hold the contraction for four seconds. Repeat on the left side. If you need to, hold onto the wall or a chair to maintain your balance.
This video provides exercises to specifically strengthen the gluteus medius muscles:
This video gives you a stretching exercise to work your gluteus minimus:
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Primary Source for This Sharepost:
Lukits, A. (2015). A juice helps blood pressure. The Wall Street Journal.
Price, J. (2014). Build strong glutes and a pain-free lower back. ACEfitness.org.
Tanenbaum, S. (ND). Tighten your glutes in 15 minutes. RealSimple.com.
Dorian Martin writes about various topics for HealthCentral, including Alzheimer’s disease, diet/exercise, menopause and lung cancer. Dorian is a health and caregiving advocate living in College Station, TX. She has a Ph.D. in educational human resource development. Dorian also founded I Start Wondering, which encourages people to embrace a life-long learning approach to aging. She teaches Sheng Zhen Gong, a form of Qigong. Follow Dorian on Twitter at @dorianmartin, Facebook or Instagram at @doriannmartin.