Menopause, Perimenopause and—Somatopause?

Everyone has heard of menopause and periomenopause, and if you’re over 45, chances are that you’re experienced both. But here’s another pause to give you pause: Somatopause. And unfortunately for guys, this one affects both genders.

“Somatopause” refers to the changes that occur when the level of human growth hormone (HGH) in our body begins to drop off.  Colloquially, it’s referred to as “the middle age spread” and the consequences are no fun at all. The decline in human growth hormone is one major reason why we lose muscle mass, gain weight and experience a dramatic decline in energy once we hit 40 and beyond.  These changes aren’t simply the side effects of getting older—they’re caused in part by a decrease in human growth hormone.

What can you do to counteract somatopause? In order to maintain peak physical fitness and keep your body working as well as possible, you need to maintain adequate levels of HGH.  Maybe you’re wondering: if my levels of human growth hormone are low, can’t I take supplements?  The answer is no, you can’t.  Some doctors will occasionally prescribe hormone injections for very old, very deficient patients, but it isn’t a safe or affordable option for most people experiencing somatopause.  In fact, HGH as an injection is a banned substance in professional sports, since it’s classified as a steroid.

So how can you replenish your depleted levels of human growth hormone?  Experts generally agree that exercise is the most effective natural way to do it.  In fact, some claim that the right exercise program is enough to boost your HGH levels by as much as 535 percent.

However, yoga buffs, listen up: Not all types of exercise will do. In order to get that hormonal boost, you need to engage certain muscles, namely your “super fast” muscle fibers.  These are muscles that aren’t usually engaged by traditional aerobic exercise or weight training.  In order to work them out and thus boost your levels of HGH, you need to do what are called anaerobic short burst exercises.

The principle behind this regimen is that you don’t need to run on the treadmill or use the elliptical for an hour, forty-five minutes, or even half an hour.  Proponents of this type of exercise say that, by engaging these super fast muscles, you can get the full range of benefits from only twenty minutes of exercise.  Here are the steps recommended by most experts:

  1. Warm up by jogging or cycling at a moderate pace for three minutes.

  2. Sprint or pedal as hard as you can for 30 seconds.  You need to go hard enough so that you’re in oxygen debt (can’t easily breathe or talk), are sweating, and feel like you could not possibly go any longer.

  3. Recover for 90 seconds at a moderate pace.

  4. Repeat the high intensity sprint and recovery 7 more times.

Don’t like to pedal or sprint? To counteract somatopause, try mixing up your yoga practice, alternating poses with short bursts of intense activity, like an intense Surya Namaskar including jumps from Uttanasana to Chaturanga and from Downward Dog to Uttanasana—rigorous enough to make you short of breath.

Other alternatives, include jumping rope, using a stair climber, or jumping on a mini-trampoline (which by the way, works wonders for your lymphatic system as well). The main idea is to challenge your body to deliver at more than full capacity. This in turn will trigger a healing response and the production of HGH.

If you replace some of your regular workouts with these anaerobic short burst exercises, you’ll be one step closer to reversing the effects of somatopause and getting back to a healthier, younger-feeling body.

Recent articles


Upcoming courses

Yoga for
every body

How to Avoid the Top 3 Pitfalls of Forward Bends

With Julie Gudmedstad

Recent articles


Sorry, You have reached your
monthly limit of views

To access, join us for a free 7-day membership trial to support expanding the Pose Library resources to the yoga community.

Sign up for a FREE 7-day trial