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Relationship between Testosterone Levels And Exercise

Ever wondered what happens to the hormones in your body when you exercise? Well, there are certainly a lot of biochemical reactions that occur when you workout, and it will definitely take a much longer discussion if each one of those reactions are elaborated. However, for the sake of this article, the relationship between exercise and, one of the most common and important hormones in the body, the testosterone, will be explained.

So what is testosterone?

(Image lifted from: https://www.cpandr.uk)

Testosterone is a vital hormone that is found not only in humans but also in other animals. Testosterone is primarily produced in the testes of men and the ovaries of women. It is considered to be an androgen which is a steroid hormone. Androgens, as the name implies, are usually a male hormone but it is good to note that it still has more than 200 biochemical actions in women. Women’s ovaries make testosterone in much smaller amounts compared to the testes of men. In addition to that, the production of testosterone begins to increase abundantly during puberty, and starts to decrease after age 30 or so.

It is good to note that Testosterone is a steroid from the androstane class containing a keto and hydroxyl groups at positions three and seventeen respectively, as seen on the image above. It is biosynthesized in various steps from cholesterol and is transformed in the liver to an inactive metabolite. It manifests its biological actions via binding to and activation of the androgen receptor found all throughout the human body.

Why is Testosterone Important?

In males, testosterone is most frequently associated with sex drive. In addition to that, it also plays an important role in the production of sperm cells. It also has an impact in the regulation of bone and muscle mass, the way men store fat in the body, control body fat percentage, and even in production of red blood cells. Studies have also shown that testosterone levels can also affect a man’s mood.

Testosterone has a significant anabolic effect of muscle growth and strength. On the surface of muscle cells, Testosterone binds to receptors and increases protein synthesis in order to build the muscle, especially after muscle tears generated during resistance or weight training. In addition to that, testosterone stimulates the levels of growth hormone in which the body produces in response to exercise. This is important because growth hormone also has a vital role in regulating protein synthesis and muscle growth.

Furthermore, studies have shown that the prevalence of osteoporosis in testosterone deficient males is twice as much compared to those men who have levels of testosterone in the normal range. With that, studies have proven that testosterone reduces the osteoclastic activity, which is the breakdown of bone and increases the osteoblastic activity which is vital for growth and development of bones. Another benefit of testosterone is that it increases the level of the red blood cells produced in the bone marrow. With this, a greater amount of oxygen is allowed to be circulated in the blood, which helps in reducing the demand on the heart. Studies have shown that there is a 24% reduction in the risk for heart attack and a 36% reduction in the occurrence of stroke to subjects who have been put in testosterone replacement therapy. Naturally, science has proven that this can be achieved by doing some resistance exercise in order to prevent low levels of testosterone.

Testosterone is also known to improve verbal memory, spatial abilities, and mathematical reasoning. Studies have observed that men with higher levels of testosterone have shown to have a reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.

With the benefits stated above, it is therefore important to maintain at least normal levels of testosterone in the body. Low levels of testosterone, also known as low T levels, can produce a wide range of different symptoms such as decreased sex drive, less energy, weight gain, feelings of depression, moodiness, low self-esteem, less body hair, and thinner bones. While testosterone production naturally tapers off as a person ages, there are significant other factors that can cause hormone levels to drop more swiftly. These can include: injury to the testicles and cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation which can negatively affect testosterone production, and chronic health conditions and stress that can also reduce testosterone production which include, but are not limited to, AIDS, kidney disease, alcoholism, and Liver cirrhosis.

Link between Testosterone and Exercise

Today, there are still ongoing studies in order to understand the full link and relationship of testosterone and exercise. However, it is important to note that studies have already proven that exercise initially increases testosterone levels but only for a short period of time. With that, experts strongly recommend that you make exercise a habit in order to get all the benefits.

Generally, there are some factors which influence the increase of testosterone during exercise. These include the following:

  • Weight – There is a positive relationship between lower body fat percentage and high testosterone levels. Evidence from scientific studies have shown that testosterone directly inhibits the production of fat cells.
  • Age – As stated above, testosterone levels decrease with age. Studies observed that in the elderly short term exercise stimulates the production of testosterone, and thus increases its levels in the blood. Furthermore, studies have also shown that lower levels of testosterone can increase the risk of dementia.
  • Fitness levels – Studies have proven that if people who have a low level of fitness are most likely to have a greater increase in testosterone as a response to exercise. However, as the body adjusts to the demands of exercise, the testosterone response will also decrease.
  • Time of day – In the morning, the level of testosterone is highest. Studies have observed that the greatest response of testosterone is in the evening when the levels are lower. Hence, training at the end of the day will give a more significant boost to testosterone response.
Past and recent studies show that exercise has a significant impact on testosterone levels in both men and women. Studies have proven that exercising regularly was linked to higher testosterone levels compared to those who have sedentary lifestyles. A past study has proven that the testosterone levels in men and women after lifting weights found that men experience significant increases of testosterone while women experience little to no increase. Furthermore, during resistance training, testosterone is temporarily increased in women, which can have an impact on their fat distribution. In older men, studies have found out that regular physical activity increases testosterone and growth hormone levels. Brain function is also affected positively by this increase in testosterone and growth hormone levels. A recent study has proven that people who are obese have higher increase in their testosterone levels when they exercise regularly. With all these studies, increases in testosterone levels are indeed positively linked with regular exercise.

Exercises That Increase Testosterone

As stated above, exercising does increase testosterone levels. However, it must be noted that not all exercise is created equal. So if you are trying to increase your testosterone levels in order to reap its benefits, you may reconsider adding other testosterone level-boosting activities to your exercise program. With that, here are some of the exercises that can aid in increasing testosterone levels in your body:

  • Resistance training

    According to studies, resistance exercises are effective in increasing short- and long-term testosterone levels. Resistance training, such as weightlifting, is the best type of exercise that can significantly boost testosterone in both short and long term in men and women. In fact, studies have observed that men who did strength or resistance training for 3 days a week for 4 weeks had high increases in their testosterone levels right after a workout and over time. However, experts have observed that these increases are not the same for men and women. In men, there is approximately 21.6% increase in testosterone levels, while in women there is only about 16.7% increase. Furthermore, studies have shown that these testosterone increases in women may only be temporary. In men, especially the young ones, they have more increase in both testosterone and growth hormone levels compared to older men.

  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT) for men

    In men, HIIT is another proven way in order to increase testosterone levels. According to studies, found that HIIT increases T levels in men. Moreover, men who do interval training which consists of 90 seconds of intense treadmill running interspersed with 90-second recovery periods boosted free T levels more significantly than those who just simply run for 45 minutes straight. In addition to that, studies also have observed that men who take DHEA supplements along with five sessions of 2-minute cycling exercises have a much higher testosterone level, especially in younger and older men.

Additional Tips To Increase Testosterone

Other than exercise, there are definitely some other ways in order for you to increase your testosterone levels so that you can reap all of its positive health benefits. These include eating a diet high in protein, fat, and carbs, reducing your stress and levels of cortisol, going out for some sunlight, or taking vitamin D supplements, zinc, and vitamin B, sleeping for about 7 to 10 hours of every night, taking natural herbs including ashwagandha, horny goat weed, and ginger.

References:
1. Hawkins, V. N., Foster-Schubert, K., Chubak, J., Sorensen, B., Ulrich, C. M., Stancyzk, F. Z., Plymate, S., Stanford, J., White, E., Potter, J. D., & McTiernan, A. 2008. Effect of exercise on serum sex hormones in men: a 12-month randomized clinical trial. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 40(2), 223–233. https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0b013e31815bbba9
2. Jewell, T. Healthline. 2019. Does Working Out Increase Testosterone Levels?. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/health/does-working-out-increase-testosterone. Retrieved on 14 October 2020.
3. Luetjens CM, Weinbauer GF. 2012. Chapter 2: Testosterone: Biosynthesis, transport, metabolism and (non-genomic) actions. In Nieschlag E, Behre HM, Nieschlag S (eds.). Testosterone: Action, Deficiency, Substitution (4th ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 15–32.
4. Metcalf, E. WebMD. 2019. Does Working Out Affect Testosterone Levels?. Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/men/features/exercise-and-testosterone#1. Retrieved on 14 October 2020.
5. Roland, J. Healthline. 2019. What Is Testosterone?. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-testosterone. Retrieved on 14 October 2020.

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