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Stand up to the old-age hump


This simple forward bend, called intense stretch pose, improves posture.

It seems inevitable, that hunched-over, old-lady walk. It’s not, with the right kind of exercise. Your mother was right; you’ve got to stand up straight.

A collapsed spine created what used to be called a dowager’s hump. Women went into menopause, their bones got soft and next thing they knew, they were getting a great view of the ground. They just couldn’t stand up straight. Men also get weaker bones, although not so quickly as women.

Strong bones are a big part of helping us stand up straight, and hormone replacement therapy is one way to keep bones strong when menopause starts, women are told. A study in 1996 found women who took the therapy had stronger bones. But a doctor at UCLA, Dr. Gail Greendale, studied what happened in the years after that study. Dr. Greendale and fellow researchers found that women who continued taking hormone replacements after three years did not gain any more bone density.

Without popping hormone pills, how can women or men keep from getting that hump?

Get good posture, now. Strong back muscles now will be strong back muscles later. Dr. Greendale also led a study published in 2002 on how yoga can help prevent that hunched over posture, called kyphosis. Within 12 weeks, the women got a quarter-inch taller. The women, all 60 or older, were able to stand up from a chair faster, pick up a penny faster and reach upward farther. Like Dr. Greendale, the study co-authors are with the School of Medicine at UCLA.

Think you're too stiff to do yoga? Try Iyengar yoga. Iyengar teachers can modify poses for beginners, and the Iyengar Yoga Institute of Los Angeles is offering introductory classes this month and next.

More info: Visit the Iyengar Yoga Institute of Los Angeles Web site to learn more about classes. Read the original 1996 study results. Read an abstract of Dr. Greendale's bone density study.


  • Suzanne Cacanindin 5 years ago

    Thanks for the great advice! I am looking forward to more from you! Keep it coming!


  • Laurie Williams 5 years ago

    What? Exercise might do more good than hormone replacement? An amazing thought!

  • Hilary 5 years ago

    Welcome! I just turned 52 - this is exactly the kind of info I'm looking for.

  • Paul Millen 5 years ago

    Good article. I didn't know men can have the same problems as we get older.

  • Joy Davin 5 years ago

    gret article. I have the "hump" starting..I am going to start yoga now!! Thanks for the info.jd

  • Maggie 5 years ago

    Very interesting. Especially the point about HRT losing effectiveness after 3 years. Going to yoga class tomorrow! Thanks for writing. (Which, btw, you're very good at!)

  • Barbara 5 years ago

    At 70, I amazed my doctor with my bone density values, which I attribute to Iyengar yoga. It's never too late to start!

  • Karen V 5 years ago

    Great article, and so true. Yoga has improved my posture and bone health immensely. Thanks.

  • Kathy Sutterlin 5 years ago

    Love it and oh so true! I've been practicing yoga for 4 years now. At 53 years old I stand straighter and taller (3/4 inch). Great article. I'm looking forward to more.

  • GL Gray 5 years ago

    Great informative article-looking forward to more! I started a yoga practice after I had my 40th birthday and am still going strong (and straight) at 55.

  • Toni Grant 5 years ago

    Interesting article.Love to here more about the wonders of yoga.

  • Lynette 5 years ago

    I'm approaching 40 and my mom has osteoporosis, so getting information like this is wonderful. I've read several of your other articles and like the insights you give into how yoga and exercise in general can really improve all facets of one's life. Keep advocating for us!

  • Kathy Bolte 5 years ago

    Glad to be part of the group of women who do yoga regularly and benefit by having a strong, healthy body even at 59. And a wonderful side benefit is that yoga has helped with many of my symptoms of menopause. Thanks Christie for this great, confirming article.