The way that the male hormone, testosterone, interacts with exercise is a hotly talked about and debated phenomenon. It is also an area of hormonal research that is ongoing. As a result, we are always learning more about this emerging field of study. Read on to learn about the newest research and whether or not exercise actually does impact hormone levels.
How does testosterone affect the body?
Testosterone is the primary sex hormone for men. However, women also need testosterone. In men, testosterone is essential for:
- The formation of the penis and testicles
- Deepening of the voice
- Facial hair and balding
- Pubic hair
- Muscle development and size
- Bone strength
Often, too much testosterone results in a bevy of symptoms such as:
- Reduced libido and fertility
- Risk of heart attack
- Increased muscles
- Aggressive behavior
- Mood swings
Too little testosterone in men leads to hair loss, muscle loss, hot flashes, increased breast size, and other symptoms. It’s important to understand that having a balanced level of testosterone is more important for your health than simply having more or less of it.
For women, testosterone is essential for:
- The ovaries and their health
- Bone density
In women, there is less testosterone, but it must be balanced with other hormones. Thus, testosterone actually plays a significant role in the health and functioning of the ovaries. It is also intensely linked to mood, libido, and cognitive (mental) function.
- Irregular menstruation
- Lessened fertility
- Abnormal hair growth on the face, extremities, and other parts of the body
- Thick skin
- Weight gain
However, there is still a lot we are still learning about testosterone and its role in women’s bodies.
Does exercise increase testosterone levels?
Over a long period of time, exercise has been found to increase testosterone levels in men. However, even over the short term, exercise has been found to have effects. Some exercises more than others have been found to increase testosterone levels within fifteen minutes and an hour of doing them.
This short-time spike disappears after that period of time and is bigger for younger men. Additionally, testosterone levels are naturally higher in the morning and lower in the afternoon. So if you work out in the morning and do specific workouts that heighten your testosterone levels, you will get a short-term boost. However, only regular exercise over time will raise your testosterone levels in the long term.
Currently, there is no evidence that testosterone levels increase when women exercise. However, an increased presence of testosterone in a woman’s body during exercise helps women to train. In addition, testosterone helps muscles recover faster, which benefits overall exercise progress.
Which exercises increase testosterone levels?
Here are some of the exercises that have been found to temporarily boost your testosterone:
- Weightlifting. This practice is said to be one that is most linked to higher testosterone levels. Its muscle-boosting effects are thought to generate more testosterone. If your focus is increased testosterone, it's best to target larger muscle groups while you are lifting. However, strengthening your whole body helps your metabolism and aids you in avoiding injury. So, don’t ignore other parts of your body in your quest for more testosterone.
- High-intensity interval training. This is a type of exercise in which you usually complete short but intense periods of activity that substantially increase heart rate. Intense periods are followed by periods of recovery that are about the same length of time or a little shorter than the exercise periods. The entire workout should last around twenty minutes to an hour.
Exercises that decrease testosterone
Marathon running, cycling, or other types of long-distance exercises designed to test your endurance have been found to lower your testosterone levels over time. This reduction could be partially due to the way that endurance exercises break down your muscles.
You may combat this reduction in a variety of ways that safely and naturally boost your testosterone levels, including:
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Harvard Health Publishing: "Testosterone - What It Does And Doesn't Do."
Northwestern Medicine: "Quick Dose: Can Physical Activity Affect Testerone?"
Piedmont Healthcare: "The best exercises to increase testosterone."
Urology of Virginia: "Health And Fitness."
West Texas A&M University: "Can a man's testosterone be boosted naturally?"