Weight gain. Fatigue. Muscle aches. Joint pain. Lack of appetite. Trouble sleeping. These are all symptoms of hormonal imbalance, and they can be incredibly frustrating because they make us feel out-of-sorts, unproductive, and less than our best. Hormones are huge contributors to our mental sharpness, energy levels, and metabolism.
What’s one way to help regulate your hormones? Exercise! In addition to sufficient protein, low sugar intake, and consistent quality sleep, regular workouts can have a tremendous effect on your hormonal health.
But before answering the question, Which exercise is best for hormone balance? you need to first identify which hormones are out of whack. Different types of exercise will be beneficial in different situations, and for different hormone imbalances.
HOW DOES EXERCISE AFFECT YOUR HORMONES?
According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, your body produces cortisol (a glucocorticoid) in response to stress: emotional stress, mental stress, physical stress, or environmental stress. When your stress increases, your cortisol increases, pushing your body into “flight or fight'' mode. “This activation tells your body you are in some form of imminent danger and it immediately increases your blood pressure, elevates your heart rate, and releases glucose into the bloodstream from your liver,” the Academy says. If you can’t regulate stress, these hormonal changes start to upset your metabolism.
When it comes to controlling your cortisol levels, the kind of exercise you choose is crucial. Crushing a high-intensity workout when your levels are high will add more stress to your already overwhelmed system. Listen to your body, and opt for low-intensity workouts like walking, yoga, or light weight-lifting to moderate your cortisol levels. This will help you feel less stressed and get your metabolism headed in the right direction.
When the bloodstream has elevated glucose levels, your body produces insulin. Prolonged insulin production also causes inflammation, which increases cortisol, and…you can see the cyclical effect of hormone disruption here. Personal Trainer Jenni Rivett told Byrdie: “Exercise will also drive insulin (a fat hormone) down, and levels will normalize while keeping cortisol…in check to prevent it from taking over your body.”
A good exercise regimen can help your system produce insulin properly. High-intensity exercise such as kickboxing will help keep those insulin levels healthy – you just have to be careful about not overdoing it at the risk of skyrocketing your cortisol. 1-2 high-intensity HIIT sessions a week with several low-intensity workouts should help you feel leveled out and regulate your metabolism.
The link between exercise and sex is no big surprise – we see it splashed across social media, gym advertisements, and clothing brands all the time. But the connection goes beyond physical attractiveness and libido. High-intensity resistance training can help maintain and even increase testosterone (the male sex hormone), which is what regulates energy levels, the ability to build and maintain muscle, and libido.
For women, the main sex hormone is progesterone. When women regularly alternate between cardio workouts like running, swimming, or boxing training, and moderate resistance training, their estrogen, and progesterone ratios stay balanced, which keeps menstrual cycles regular, keeps pre-menopausal symptoms at bay, and minimizes increased fat storage.
In an interview for Well + Good, Sara Gottfried, MD, author of The Hormone Cure and The Hormone Reset Diet talked about exercise as a way of controlling estrogen, as well: "Most women, starting around age 35, develop estrogen dominance. Exercise helps to reverse this trend, leading to a lower risk of breast cancer for premenopausal and postmenopausal women alike."
WHAT HORMONES ARE RELEASED BY EXERCISE?
The popular theory that exercise gives you a rush of endorphins has been questioned and nearly nullified by neuroscientists and health experts. While it remains true that humans (and animals) experience lower levels of stress hormones after physical activity, it’s not necessarily thanks to endorphins.
In an article for Johns Hopkins Medicine, professor of neuroscience David Linden, Ph.D. explains that “exercise has a dramatic antidepressive effect [because] it blunts the brain’s response to physical and emotional stress.”
While endorphins do help prevent muscles from feeling pain, that feel-good rush that comes from exercise is actually an increase in the body’s endocannabinoids, which, Dr. Linden says, are “biochemical substances similar to cannabis” that the body naturally produces when people engage in an exercise like running, boxing, resistance training, or a kickboxing workout.
Though not hormones, endocannabinoids “promote short-term psychoactive effects such as reduced anxiety and feelings of calm.” These endocannabinoids help keep your cortisol and other stress-vulnerable hormones in check, balanced, and healthy.
Tending to your hormone imbalance doesn’t have to be a chore. In fact, we argue that it can be a dang good time!
IMPROVE YOUR HORMONE BALANCE LIKE A FIGHTER
Take your workouts to the next level and train like a fighter with the at-home connected fitness solution used by world champion boxers Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather. FightCamp has everything you need to work out on your schedule, with premium boxing equipment and hundreds of on-demand strength, conditioning, kickboxing, boxing, core, and recovery classes led by real fighters.
As Mike Tyson said - “FightCamp is the next level of training!”