Move, move, move…you hear it all the time!
You know it’s good for you, you know it’s key for your overall health, but you may not realize how it can affect your hormone balance. Exercise is a great leveler. It’s like the hall monitor from school that tells everyone it’s time to get back to the areas they came from and keeps the halls from mass chaos. It can reduce your excess hormones and keep the balance of hormones in your body, avoiding hormonal chaos. Some of the hormones that can be affected by exercise include estrogen, testosterone, cortisol, and human growth hormone.
Let’s take a look at how exercise plays hall-monitor and can affect levels of key hormones and the best types of workouts to get the benefits.
Exercise and Estrogen
This is the hormone that gets blamed for EVERYTHING that goes wrong in the female body.
After all, it is the female sex hormone. Did you know that estrogen is also produced in men through an enzyme that turns testosterone into estradiol? Men need some estrogen for a healthy sex drive but too much estrogen can go hand in hand with low testosterone.
For women, estrogen is important for healthy bones and cholesterol in particular. It’s a fine balance though as too much estrogen raises the risk of breast cancer. Experts estimate that by the age of 35, a lot of women are in “estrogen dominance” due to the amount of estrogen they have. And that’s a big problem given that lots of things can potentially increase your estrogen levels, including contraceptive pills, pesticides in foods, plastics, make-up…you get the picture. Scary stuff, right?
There is some good news though: exercise can make estrogen levels more stable and balance out the effects of excess estrogen. The hall monitor at work! This can cut the risk of breast cancer and give you great peace of mind for the future.
Does it matter what type of exercise you do? According to studies, high-intensity exercise showed more potential for balancing out estrogen levels (think HIIT workouts) but physical activity, in general, has been shown to have positive effects.
Exercise and Testosterone
I know you’re thinking Testosterone is a male sex hormone, but women have a bit of it too. It’s important for lean muscle mass and helping muscles to recover quicker after exercise. Low testosterone in women can have similar effects to low testosterone in men, although what’s classed as “low” obviously differs!
Exercise can boost testosterone levels, which can play a role in everything from libido to having more muscle mass and less belly fat. All good reasons to want a little bit more of this hormone floating around in your body.
Experts suggest that it only takes around 20 minutes of physical activity to increase testosterone levels for women. You can do anything for 20 minutes, right?
Exercise and Human Growth Hormone
If you’re not familiar with Human Growth Hormone (HGH), it has a big role to play in the turnover of collagen, muscle, and bone, and it’s also involved in healthy metabolism.
Your body produces some Human Growth Hormone while you sleep but exercise is also well known to boost levels. (Sidenote: This is another good reason to sleep and not scroll every night.)
Not all exercise is equal though and only certain types have been shown to affect levels of Human Growth Hormone. Your best bets? According to studies, high-intensity exercise and resistance training can build on this. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) may also be a good choice given the intensity of the average interval but you’re best to combine it with strength training if you’re serious about boosting HGH.
Exercise and Cortisol
Cortisol is a stress hormone and dictates how your body responds to stress. This is the hormone that can keep us tired and wired. To some degree, you need cortisol to help to repair exercise-related muscle damage and encourage your muscles to bounce more quickly after working out.
Not so fast, it’s not all good news though. Spending most of your time with high cortisol levels makes you more likely to store fat, especially belly fat. It’s the hormone that needs the hall monitor the way you need meditation, to keep this hormone in check!
When you work out, your body’s cortisol levels rise. This is a given and there’s not much you can do about it. That said, some types of exercise are more likely to raise cortisol levels than others.
Low-intensity exercise can reduce cortisol levels and keep them at stable levels whereas reasonably high-intensity exercise has been shown to increase them. Endurance training is one of the types of exercise that can significantly raise cortisol levels, especially when it’s intense.
Exercise and Insulin
Regular exercise can help to improve insulin resistance. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a good choice for this, according to studies, but it’s not quite as straightforward as this given that HIIT also increases cortisol levels too. How much it raises cortisol levels can depend on factors such as how long you rest in between intervals and whether you recover well between HIIT sessions.
The Final Word
When it comes down to it, moderate exercise can be a great way to keep your hormone levels healthy, especially when it’s combined with a good diet, plenty of sleep and a healthy lifestyle in general. Don’t be tempted to overdo it. One word of caution when it comes to all of these hormones: over-exercising can throw everything out of whack – especially if you do it more often than not. Brittle bones and fertility issues are just a couple of the things that can start to develop as a result of this
If you haven’t started an exercise regimen, start with walking 30 minutes/day. That’s it. That’s all you need to get started. You can do anything for 30 minutes.
If you are working out way too hard, cut back. Add in a few moderate exercise days and maybe a little yoga to help keep the hormones from running chaos in your hallways.
Until next time. Health and Hugs. xoxo