Most people associate hormones with processes like growth and fertility. However, the truth is these regulatory chemicals do a whole lot more. Affecting everything from stress levels to weight gain, hormones control a wide array of bodily functions and can cause problems when they’re out of balance.
While doctors often prescribe drugs and supplements to treat hormone-related health problems, the truth is that exercise may be enough to balance these crucial chemicals. In fact, exercise physiologists at Piedmont Healthcare suggest exercise as a way of regulating imbalances and improving overall wellness.
Understanding the Relationship Between Exercise and Hormones
You probably know that hormones affect energy levels and libido, contributing to one’s ability to exercise. One of the better-known hormones, testosterone, for example, is what aids bodybuilders in accumulating muscle mass. Additionally, growth hormones help athletes recover after arduous workouts.
Still, you might not realize that the relationship between hormones and exercise actually goes both ways, with exercise helping to balance hormones and boost general health. According to a recent Men’s Journal article, getting the right amount of exercise can help raise hormone levels to optimal numbers. On the other hand, exercising too much or too little can cause muscle to break down and impede your ability to get fit. If you want to optimize hormone levels, exercise and nutrition go hand in hand.
Not All Exercise Is Created Equal
While it’s clear that exercise affects hormones, various types of workouts impact levels in different ways. If you want to trigger the release of anabolic hormones, high-intensity weights and interval cardio yield the best results, according to Men’s Journal. To that end, it’s best to
utilize heavier weights in the 3-5 rep range and integrate 20-second to 30-second sprints into your workout. Walk or jog for a minute after each sprint. Additionally, you can perform a range of high-intensity exercises like squats, crunches, push-ups, and lunges, while keeping rest times minimal.
While intensity maximizes the release of hormones, it’s also key to be consistent. The goal is to effect a lifestyle change, not just a brief rise in levels.
Additionally, engaging in the right kind of exercise can boost low estrogen levels. Exercise is particularly crucial in women experiencing menopause symptoms who want to avoid HRT, or hormone replacement therapy. According to Oxygen Magazine, engaging in high-intensity resistance training for short periods helps build muscle without stressing hormone-producing glands.
Benefits Beyond the Physical
Of course, people don’t just exercise for the physical benefits. Athletes and fitness fanatics also enjoy emotional perks. For example, engaging in exercise increases your level of dopamine, which controls stress and reduces depression. This chemical is also responsible for the “runners high” people may experience. Additionally, exercise can increase serotonin, which can boost mood, memory, sexual function, and digestion.
Talk to your doctor about the best ways to balance your hormones with exercise.