How Your Workout Routine Affects Your Hormones

What you need to know about exercising a safe and beneficial workout

You might not realize it, but your workouts could be affecting your hormones. When we think of exercising, we usually think of the benefits, like more energy, better mood and weight loss. Many people don’t know that the length of time and intensity of their workouts can also affect their hormones positively or negatively.

The Good News

On the positive side, when we exercise and increase our heart rate, endorphins are secreted. These chemical hormones in our brain help to relieve pain, stress, and boost happiness. Exercise also reduces estrogen; a hormone that can be related to an increased risk factor for breast cancer when we have too much of it and/or higher levels of it over a lifetime.

Exercise, like weights and resistance training, increases testosterone levels, which is important for women, muscle growth, maintenance, and increasing metabolism. Levels that are too high can have negative effects such as acne, deepening voice, and frontal balding. If estrogen or testosterone are high, exercising at a higher intensity, like a HIIT workout, is recommended. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) also helps boost the production of the human growth hormone, which aids in reducing fat, improving insulin sensitivity and building more muscle.

A Delicate Balance

The hormone cortisol helps our body respond to stress and regulates other processes in our bodies, including metabolism and our immune response. Steady, low intensity exercising has been shown to decrease and/or regulate cortisol levels. However, high-intensity workouts have been associated with increased levels of cortisol following exercise.

Consistent or prolonged high cortisol levels can result in higher blood sugar, loss of calcium from bones, depression of immune responses, high blood pressure, loss of muscle mass, increased fat accumulation, and even loss of cognitive function. If cortisol levels are low, high or out of balance, it’s recommended to start each day in a calm, relaxed state in order to build stress resilience before adding the additional stress of intense exercise. Start steady brisk paced walks, swimming at a moderate pace, low-to-moderate level yoga, mind-body exercise or meditation.

Know Yourself

It’s important to understand that exercise is a stressor on our bodies. It can be a good stressor, but it also can affect our hormone levels in positive and negative ways. If you’re feeling tired or stressed out already, exercise may help, but it might also deplete you even more. If exercising increases your energy levels, then that’s an indication that it’s doing you good.

If you feel depleted after exercise, it may be taxing your adrenals and impacting your hormones in a negative way. Over-exercising can actually increase our stress hormones, risk for muscle loss, infections, injury, fatigue and poor recovery. So, if you’re starting an exercise program or not getting the results you had hoped for from your workouts, you may want to get your hormone levels checked by your doctor or a hormone specialist so that you can know what type of exercise is best for you.


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About the Author

Noreen Lange

Noreen Lange

Noreen Lange has a BS in kinesiology with a minor in fitness, nutrition and health. With over 10 years combined experience as a certified group fitness instructor, personal trainer, and nutrition and wellness consultant, Noreen has worked with celebrities, high profile athletes, and professional sports teams including Tony Gwynn and the San Diego Padres. Comments

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