Exercise Your Way Out of Somatopause
You are never too old to get in shape. In my years as a physical therapist, I all too frequently hear patients say "I'm too old to exercise!" What makes them feel this way? It's the evil villain.... somatopause! For adults, beginning in their mid-30's, our bodies undergo a gradual decrease in the production of growth hormones (HGH) or "somatopause." This hormonal decline continues as we get older. It is frequently associated with
- Weight gain, especially in the mid-section
- Diminishing muscle tone
- Loss of bone density
- Decreased energy
- Increased cholesterol levels by increasing LDL's and reducing HDL levels
- Increasing blood pressure levels
- Diminished libido or sex drive
- Formation of wrinkling in the skin
Never fear, there is hope. You don't need a physical therapist or personal trainer to get into shape or minimize the effects of somatopause, but it helps to know a few of the secrets. As we get older, building muscle mass, developing tone, and staying in shape can be achieved with the smart use of free weights or resistance machines. The secret...it takes more than cardio workouts and lifting weights in the usual way.....3 sets of 10 each. We also need to include anaerobic exercise - short bursts of intense activity in a short period of time, usually two minutes or less. By contrast, aerobic exercise as swimming, cycling, treadmill and jogging take place over an extended period of time...20 to 60 minutes. Aerobic activity burns calories and enhances your cardio fitness, but has no effect on your HGH (growth homone) levels.
Anaerobic exercise causes your body to utilize both the fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers. Aeorobics tend to recruite only the slow twitch fibers. Recruiting the fast twitch fibers stimulates the growth of muscle and normalizes your insulin sensitivity - a major factor contributing to good health and preventing diabetes. Regular anaerobic exercise also triggers production of the growth hormones (HGH) resulting in lowered cholesterol levels and enhanced energy levels.
Often we think of sprinting or activity involving some form of speed to produce anaerobic effects. Another way produces the same result with minimal stress to your joints. It's not a Super Hero....its Super Slow weight training.
Free weights or resistance machines can be used in Super Slow weight training. In the Super Slow method, slowly lift the weight through the normal direction at the rate of 1 - 2 seconds per inch of movement. It is recommended to use 3/4 the weight you would normally lift for this particular exercise. The full range of movement will take approximately 10 seconds. Reverse the movement at the same rate. Continue to repeat this same movement with the weight until you are unable to lift it. Without resting, move onto the next exercise, repeat in the same pattern.
For example, begin with bicep curls until you can no longer do curls. Stop, switch to tricep extensions. Its okay to change the amount of weight as you switch exercises. Total exercise time should not exceed 15 minutes.
The first law of exercise is to keep moving. Suggested movements for the Super Slow method are: pull downs, chest press, rowing, press-ups, and leg press. Recovery time is essential in anaerobic activity. As a physical therapist, I recommend that it only be done 1 - 2 times a week, leaving time for aerobic activity on other days.
Somatopause may be inevitable, but the addition of anaerobic exercises to your overall workout plan each week reduces the effects by stimulating HGH naturally in your body. Share the secret.
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