How does exercise affect Womens Hormones?

When it comes to exercise, weight loss is not the only benefit.  Exercise can be about improving your overall health, and this may even mean your hormones.

Hormones can affect everything from our stress levels to our sex drive, fertility, and even our weight loss journey. Given the impact they can have on our overall health, it is important to focus on how we can naturally get them balanced.

 

Can exercise affect your hormones?

 

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Acute to moderate exercise can positively affect hormones with favorable metabolic and biochemical adaptations that can help protect again the development of certain diseases.  Although the research isn’t entirely clear, the benefits have show that just exercise can impact women’s hormones in a positive way.

Estrogen 

Estrogen is a primary sex hormone in women that is produced by the reproductive organs and effects them primarily.  Estrogen not only helps regulate a menstrual cycle, it also effects the reproductive tract, urinary tract, breasts, skin, hair, heart and blood vessels, the brain, and so much more.

Although estrogen is needed for women, too much can be bad. High levels of endogenous estrogens is found to be a main risk factor for breast cancer in women, but when women improve their physical activity circulating estrogen has been found to decrease. The benefits of exercise here are undeniable.

Androgens -Free Testosterone (sex hormones)

Androgens, like free testosterone, are naturally found in women although they are male sex hormones. Excess androgen is actually one of the most common endocrine disorders in women that can cause tissue and organ issues, acne, reproductive problems, and so much more.
Testosterone helps with muscle growth, sexual health, and bone health. Acute to moderate exercise can create changes in androgen concentrations (positive increase). This can help with everything from sexual health to reducing body fat. However, excessive/chronic exercise can cause a decrease in circulating androgens where it can cause delayed puberty, amenorrhea, and even premature osteoporosis.

Irisin

Irisin is an exercise induced hormone. One study (), showed that when irisin increased in obese rodents it can increase energy expenditure, reverse weight gain, and improve glucose tolerance. Irisin is known for its anti-obesity benefits by activating genes that turn bad white fat into good brown fat as well as changing the way fat is stored.

When it comes to exercise, moderate to high intensity exercise are best to improve irisin levels in your body. This gives women all the more reason to lift weights and improve their weekly exercise habits.

Cortisol

Cortisol is, and I’m sure you already know, known as the stress hormone because of how it is impacted from stress. Cortisol regulates several process within the body, including metabolic process and immune response. Stress and anxiety can increase levels of cortisol within the body and can influence weight gain, diabetes, concentration issues, fatigue, and high blood pressure.

Exercise can improve cortisol levels and help reduce stress and anxiety. But, chronic exercise can actually do the opposite. It is important to listen to your body and rest when needed.  If you enjoy intense endurance training and want to avoid increased cortisol levels, just make sure to rest between intervals.

How can exercise Positively impact hormones?

Several studies have demonstrated that low to moderate exercise (in some cases, HIIT- high-intensity interval training) can help balance women’s hormones & create a positive impact like:
  • Lowering stress levels
  • Improving insulin sensitivity
  • Improved thyroid levels
  • Lowering risk of obesity
  • Lower excess estrogen levels, which can reduce the risk of breast cancer
  • Stimulates production of sex hormones like testosterone which can decrease fat mass & increase muscle mass
  • Improve symptoms from menstrual cycle
  • Improve menopausal symptoms

But, there is such thing as too much of a good thing. The stress of chronic exercise can do the opposite and impact our hormones in a negative way. But, regular exercise is a health benefit for women that shouldn’t be overlooked. So the next time you go to workout- stop focusing on the possible weight loss benefits and workout to improve your overall health. Exercise is so much more than weight loss.

 

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References

 

  1. Archundia-Herrera, C., Macias-Cervantes, M., Ruiz-Muñoz, B., Vargas-Ortiz, K., Kornhauser, C., & Perez-Vazquez, V. (2017). Muscle irisin response to aerobic vs HIIT in overweight female adolescents. Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome9, 101. http://doi.org/10.1186/s13098-017-0302-5
  2. Ennour-Idrissi, K., Maunsell, E., & Diorio, C. (2015). Effect of physical activity on sex hormones in women: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Breast Cancer Research17(1), 139.
  3. Hooper, A. E. C., Bryan, A. D., & Eaton, M. (2011). Menstrual Cycle Effects on Perceived Exertion and Pain During Exercise Among Sedentary Women. Journal of Women’s Health20(3), 439–446. http://doi.org/10.1089/jwh.2010.2042
  4. Laakkonen, E. K., Kulmala, J., Aukee, P., Hakonen, H., Kujala, U. M., Lowe, D. A., … Sipilä, S. (2017). Female reproductive factors are associated with objectively measured physical activity in middle-aged women. PLoS ONE12(2), e0172054. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0172054
  5. Miri, M., Karimi Jashni, H., & Alipour, F. (2014). Effect of exercise intensity on weight changes and sexual hormones (androstenedione and free testosterone) in female rats with estradiol valerate-induced PCOS. Journal of Ovarian Research7, 37. http://doi.org/10.1186/1757-2215-7-37
  6. Stults-Kolehmainen, M. A., & Sinha, R. (2014). The Effects of Stress on Physical Activity and Exercise. Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.)44(1), 81–121. http://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-013-0090-5
  7. Winn, N. C., Grunewald, Z. I., Liu, Y., Heden, T. D., Nyhoff, L. M., & Kanaley, J. A. (2017). Plasma Irisin Modestly Increases during Moderate and High-Intensity Afternoon Exercise in Obese Females. PLoS ONE12(1), e0170690. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0170690