Why Do Older People Shrink – BoomerMuscle

Why Do Older People Shrink

graphic men aging

Why do older people shrink as they age? Here are the reasons, along with some ways you can prevent and even reverse this nasty effect of aging. 

And by the way, Baby Boomers, we are getting older. In fact, we are now aged 53 – 71. Officially old and well into the time frame where we shrink, lose bone and muscle mass and get fatter. In fact, experts say we are now the least fit, most fat generation in all of history.

Yay! Nobody told us getting older would be this much fun, right?

Brian Patterson going on 61

In my case, turning 60 brought with it some reflection on this whole aging thing. I realized that Boomers like me never really believed we’d ever grow old. Remember when we said “never trust anyone over 30.” We actually thought at one time that 30 was old!

We thought we’d be forever young. And we were invincible.

Doesn’t work that way in the real world. It’s now our turn, ready or not.

Personally, I’ve had several wake up calls along the way.

There was the heart attack and open heart surgery in my late 40’s. Followed by weakened vision, arthritis, ringing in the ears, hair turning white/grey and falling out in my 50’s. And just last year, there was colon surgery to take out a pre-cancerous growth. This year, an out-patient procedure to fix an incisional hernia from the previous surgery turned into an extended stay in the hospital and several days in ICU as my vitals mysteriously dropped off the charts. (I’m back to normal now, whew!)

All were signs I am anything but invincible or forever young (sorry, Rod Stewart).

So, ok, I get it. Enough with the signs, please. I’m committed to doing everything I can to make my remaining years healthy, happy and free from the preventable and crippling effects of aging.

Why Do Older People Shrink?

Have you ever wondered why some older people wind up hunched over, frail and in need of a walker or wheel chair — while others seem to stay relatively robust and able to move about freely?

In some cases, it might be due to lucky genetics. But there are definitely things you can do to put yourself in the healthy, upright category.

Starting around 30 or 40, people typically lose half-an-inch per decade in height.

Here’s why:


The loss of bone mass in our spinal columns, combined with loss of cartilage between our spinal disks, causes the shrinking.

The Keys to fixing it:

Diet: Eat a diet rich in Calcium and Vitamin D. And/or take vitamin supplements. Check with your doctor. Women in particular are more prone to bone loss. Here are some guidelines on Calcium and Vitamin D needs from the National Institutes of Health.

Resistance Training: When it comes to your bones, use it or lose it. Load-bearing exercises send a signal to your body to strengthen the bones against that load. A study tracking the same men and women over a 30 year period, reported by the National Institutes of Health, found that resistance training had a significant impact on reducing the loss of height in both men and women.


The loss of muscle mass due to aging. Combined with the shrinking, it makes us frail and less able to move about freely.

The Key to fixing it:

Resistance Training, again. According to Web MD: “The primary treatment for sarcopenia is exercise, specifically resistance training or strength training. These activities increase muscle strength and endurance using weights or resistance bands.

Resistance training can help your neuromuscular system. It also can improve an older adult’s ability to convert protein to energy in as little as two weeks.”


Due to poor diet and lack of exercise. Baby Boomers in particular are becoming obese and prone to Diabetes at alarming rates.

The Keys to fixing it:

Diet, again. Obviously, obesity is related to diet and other bad habits, like too much alcohol. You have to step up to this one and eat properly. You are what you eat.

Resistance Training, again. Nothing burns calories better than resistance training. Muscle demands fuel from your body 24 hours a day. So resistance training and building muscle burns fuel even when you’re not exercising. Cardio may burn a few more calories while you’re actually doing it, but it doesn’t have the after-burn like resistance training does.

Resistance Training

There’s a reason it keeps coming up as a key solution. It is, in my opinion, the single best thing we can do for ourselves as we age. I’ve been at, in between ‘wake up calls,’ for more than 48 years.

You don’t have to try and become a bodybuilder or set an Olympic record. This is really about our health and well being as we fight back against shrinking, bone loss, muscle loss, diabetes and more. 

Please see this post for more details on how to start a Resistance Training program to burn fat and build muscle. You can do it at home with something as a simple as a set of resistance bands, or in a more elaborate home gym or an outside facility. Where and with what really doesn’t matter. 

For your sake and those you love, please just start working out. Go slowly at first and build up to it. Keep at it. Consistency in doing it is the most important thing.

Something else to Consider

My Teeter Hangups in my basement gym

And while we’re on the subject of shrinking, I’d like to suggest you consider a Teeter Hangups for stretching out those vertebrae. I’ve been using mine for many years and find it a great way to stretch.

Mine is now outdated compared to the modern models, but I’ve never had a single problem with it and it continues to give me a unique and comforting way to stretch out my aching back.

Here’s how Teeter describes the product:

UNMATCHED COMFORT & SUPPORT: Patented wrap-around ankle cups are made from specialty foam. Contoured Bed with Hand Grips flexes for comfort and optimizes stretch for maximum relief.
HIGH GRADE MATERIALS FOR RELIABILTY: Heavy-gauge steel parts with patented security features like auto-locking hinges, cam locks,specialized pivot bearings for durability.
PRECISION ROTATION FOR TOTAL CONTROL: Shift your body weight with just simple arm movements for easy return to the upright position.
TRUST TEETER: UL Safety Certification; 5-year Full Warranty; Easy 5-Step Assembly; 35-Year Legacy; 300 LB user capacity.


Check out this Video by Teeter

Teeter EP 560 Model shown.

Currently under $300 on Amazon.

Please share your thoughts below. Have you noticed a loss of height yet? Also, please feel free to drop me a line at: Brian@BoomerMuscle.com. I’ll be glad to answer any questions or help if I can.


Brian Patterson

I've been resistance training for nearly 50 years. As a younger man, I used to believe in using ever-increasing amounts of weight. Until one day in my mid-50's, my aching joints could not take the punishment any more. I had to develop a new way of working out that was effective, but free of pain. I found it. It works great. I'd like to share it with you.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Brian Patterson - March 6, 2017 Reply

Absolutely agree. I wish I knew the answer to motivating people to workout. The benefits are incredible. I’m going to keep on trying to spread the word. I think it’s the best thing Boomers could do for themselves.

Jessica - March 5, 2017 Reply

I can’t believe you had so many health issues, Brain! You look very good in the picture so I wouldn’t had guessed. Anyway, I wish you to be healthy and strong and keep helping other “older” people get healthier. I hate that we as a generation are not more dynamic. Why have we just let the years take their toll? Why aren’t we working out more, going for runs in the park? Some people start to shrink from their 50s because they don’t do anything to “shock” their bodies. I would love to see more and more people over 50 living like they are 50 and not 90!

Brian Patterson - February 10, 2017 Reply

That’s great that you are getting back in the gym and watching the diet. The two best things you can do for yourself! It’s a great question whether you can regain the height. I’m not entirely sure. But I would guess that inversion therapy, with something like the Teeter Hangup, would probably help. If you’re doing resistance training to build back the muscle, inversion should help relieve pressure on the soft tissue between your spinal discs. But that’s a topic worth exploring more. If I find some interesting information, I’ll be sure to share it.

Xdeem Li - February 9, 2017 Reply

Thanks for sharing this interesting post about shrinking. I never thought about it but maybe I am shrinking. It seems maybe I lost a half a inch from when I was in my 20’s. Well, unfortunately, I gained weight from then, like most people. In addition, my diet hasn’t been the greatest. However, I am changing that. Also, I’m back at the gym lifting weights again, and it feels great! Hey, it is possible to gain back the height?

P.S. would you please comment on my article, thanks:

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