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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.  A physical therapist or personal trainer can help you minimize the effects of somatopause, but you should 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.

Bicep curl start positionBicep curl PT DocToolsFor example, begin with bicep curls until you can no longer do curls.  Stop, switch to tricep extensions.  Triceps extensionTriceps extension PT DocToolsIts 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.


Diana welcomes your comments


I am going to try the super slow weight lifting. I lift 3 times a week, so am going to do the slow weight lifting one on the days. I do the elliptical machine for 30 minutes every day as I then have better control of my blood sugars. If you feel that I should change anything here, please let me know.
Posted @ Wednesday, June 20, 2012 1:28 PM by john hilleman
Substituting Super Slow weight training for one of your regular lift days will work fine. However, always use caution when trying something new.  
For best results with the Super Slow program: 
1. For the first time, begin with a test trial. Choose 2 - 3 exercises. Limit your time to 10 minutes or less. Evaluate how you feel over the next 24 hours. 
2. Drink plenty of water during and immediately following the program 
3. Don't eat a meal high in fat (bacon, sausage, etc) before you exercise - fat causes a chemical reaction which inhibits the release of the growth hormone 
4. Eat a small amount of carbohydrate (not sugar) and protein within an hour of finishing program 
Growth hormone levels continue to increase after your Super Slow workout. They reach the peak level in about an hour and return to normal level within a few hours. 
Good luck with your workout 
Posted @ Wednesday, June 20, 2012 1:55 PM by Diana Echert
I am going to work on these exercises with my wife.
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Diana Echert

Jumping for PT DocTools

Diana is a licensed physical therapist whose experience spans inpatient and outpatient work in rehab, geriatrics, orthopedics and sports medicine. An avid hker and tennis player, she you must practice what you preach.  Stay active and informed any way you can

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