How to Balance Hormones with Exercise.
We all know exercise is good for us. We also know that too much of a good thing isn’t good after all. This applies to exercise too!
When we exercise, we put our bodies in a state of stress. Cortisol, the ‘stress hormone’, increases when we exercise just like it does when we experiences other forms of stress. This can be good, because cortisol helps to repair tissue damage caused by exercise. However, cortisol also breaks down muscle proteins, encourages fat storage, especially around the midline, and causes undue stress to our body systems, including our hormones. Stress from exercise suppresses the secretion of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicular stimulating hormone (FSH), the hormones that stimulate ovulation and sperm production.
This means that too much exercise can cause infertility, amenorrhea (no periods), irregular cycles, and other hormonal issues. Additionally, research has shown that too much exercise can decrease testosterone in all sexes, and can decrease estrogen and progesterone in women.
Wait, I thought this was about exercise being good for hormones?
It is! In moderation. Light to moderate exercise actually reduces stress, the opposite of intense training sessions. Gentle yoga and walking are probably best known for this. Brief sessions or cardio or high intensity interval training are enough to get your heart rate up and get the health benefits of exercise without causing unecessary stress to your mind, body, or hormones. High intensity interval training (HIIT) actually increases testosterone and balances estrogen and progesterone, the opposite of excessive training sesssions.
When and how to Exercise for Hormone Regulation:
- Sit less: Sitting too much has many negative health effects, from cardiovascular health to muscle tension to mental health. It also messes with your hormones, especially insulin, which controls our blood sugar balance and can throw estrogen and progesterone out of whack too. Fidget, stand at your desk, walk and talk, set your phone or computer to ping at you every hour to remind you to get up and stretch, do some squats while you are watching TV.
- Walk more: Walking is a wonderful gentle exercise that improves hormone balance without causing extra stress. It’s also beneficial for our mental health, which in turn affects our hormones.
- Hight Intensity Interval Training: As well as strengthening your lungs and heart, it boosts testosterone and growth hormone, and improves insulin sensitivity. All you need is 12 to 20 minutes, three times a week. That’s it!
- Yoga: Not only does it improve flexibility, it also lowers your level of stress hormones and helps improve your mood. Check out yoga poses for hormone balance here.
Once you start thinking about exercise as part of your lifestyle, rather than another item on your to do list, it will start to feel fun and even like self-care. You don’t have to add any extra time to your day to stand instead of sitting, you don’t have to give up your favorite tv show, watch it during your 20 minute HIIT session! You can take a walk instead of drinking that second cup of coffee in the afternoon. When you piece all of this together, you can make major changes not only to your hormone balance, but to your overall health and mental health.
All information in this blog is for educational uses only. Always consult your doctor before taking any herbs or supplements, or changing or discontinuing your medications.
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