Human growth hormone (HGH) is definitely a buzz phrase right now, but in my opinion, something worth knowing. I know there are injectable versions of HGH people can use to "enhance" their youthful appearance, but for a much lower price and a much greater health benefit, you can give your body its own boost. This is how you can increase HGH naturally.

HGH is produced in a pea-sized part of our brain called the pituitary gland. This hormone  helps our body stay young by increasing or maintaining muscle mass, speeding up repair of bodily damage on a cellular level and reducing body fat. To get your own homemade "injection" of HGH, all you need are four solid minutes.

Our body produces increasing amounts of HGH until we hit the age of 20 (or so). Between the ages of 20 to 30, HGH decreases. Between the ages of 30 and 40, HGH decreases again. While HGH is produced throughout our entire lives, it starts to flatline after the age of 40.

Increase Your HGH Naturally

I've made no secret that in exactly one day I will be turning the ripe old age of 40. It should come as no surprise to you that in the past two weeks I've gained an incredible ten pounds! OK, that's not at all true, but it's not far off from what a lot of people think will happen after their body hits a milestone age. Don't believe that just because you're getting older, your body will fall to pieces. I've known plenty of people who have gotten into the best shape of their lives after 40! The truth is our body isn't as efficient as it used to be, but it's still an amazing, resilient machine. We can work with our body to keep it relatively youthful. In my case, I can't do anything about my kids waking me up at all hours of the night - limiting my precious sleep, but I can eat right and exercise to the right intensity.

There are a lot of days where all I want to do is go for a long, easy run. I get to clear my head and I feel more centered when I'm done. That is the greatest benefit - and so well worth it! However, when I notice my body composition starting to shift (translation: I notice less muscle and more fat), I change my workout regime to try to compensate. I also tweak my diet in small ways, but I'll get to that in another post. In the meantime, here is what I do to jumpstart my body's HGH, which in turn helps my body naturally increase muscle mass, burn more fat and well, look younger...all in four minutes.

Do 4 Minutes of Hard Work

The key to this four minute exercise is intensity. You need to push yourself to 100% effort. It's not easy, but intensity is relative from person to person. What's intense to me might be a walk in the park to someone else, and vice versa.

Today I did this four minute exercise on a spinning bike. It can be done jogging, running, on an elliptical, on a step mill, or with your own body weight. Again, the key is intensity.

Warm up for a good 10 - 15 minutes

30 Seconds 100% Effort
30 Seconds Full Recovery
60 Seconds Easy Effort
Repeat 8 Times

That's it! Those 30-second intervals of maximum effort, whether you're sprinting down a sidewalk, sprinting on your bike, pushing yourself extremely hard on a treadmill, or climbing like crazy on a step mill will make all the difference. Yes, you do need to spend time warming up, but other than that, it's not a lot of time to spend exercising! What's more, this intensity of exercise tends to boost moods by increasing our body's natural opiates, so you'll feel great immediately afterward.

Try to add this group of exercise into your workout routing a few times a week.


How Hard Should You Push Yourself?

By the end of the 30 second 100% effort interval, you should feel breathless and it should be difficult to have a conversation. It's really important to do a good warm up, giving the muscle a chance to loosen up.

During the recovery portion, keep moving - don't stand still or sit down.

During the easy effort portion, start out easy then bring your effort up to comfortable, ramping up for the next 30 second 100% effort interval.


Benefits of Tabata Sets

I didn't invent this method of exercise. In fact, it might look a little familiar to those of you who have done tabata sets in the past. Tabatas take the same amount of time (4 minutes), but break them up slightly different and apply them to exercises that are usually done for strength training purposes. Tabata sets include eight sets of 20 second effort, followed by 10 seconds of recovery - repeated 8 times. They're great to do with squats, pushups, shoulder presses, etc. Here is a tabata workout , if you're interested.


Traci is a nationally recognized health and fitness expert who has been featured on The TODAY Show and Dr. Oz. Traci is available for corporate speaking events and wellness coaching, as well as private training. Contact Traci here.