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How Exercise Helps Balance Hormones

by Mitali Shukla(more info)

listed in exercise and fitness, originally published in issue 279 - June 2022


Hormones serve as the messengers in our bodies to catalyze different chemical reactions in the brain and body. Exercise has a huge impact on how our hormones work and can ultimately result in balanced hormone levels depending on the type of movement you do. Balanced hormones also play a role in body performance and overall health outcomes.

What is Hormonal Imbalance?

While there are plenty of different hormones in the body, a hormonal imbalance means that you either have too much or too little of a specific hormone which can cause all kinds of side effects in your body. Signs of hormonal imbalance include but aren’t limited to:

  • Gaining weight or losing weight quickly;
  • Fatigue, swearing, or an increase or decrease in heart rate;
  • Muscle weakness, aches, stiffness, or tenderness;
  • Heat or cold sensitivity;
  • Joint pain, swelling, or stiffness;
  • Thinning, brittle, or fine hair;
  • Increase in thirst or hunger;
  • Depression and anxiety.

The most common hormonal imbalance is polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS. However hormones change during events like puberty, pregnancy, menopause, or breastfeeding so hormonal changes during this time are to be expected.

What Causes Hormonal Imbalances?

It may be difficult to pinpoint a specific cause of a hormonal imbalance, but some of the most common causes include the following:

  • Medications;
  • Hormone therapy;
  • Chemotherapy and other cancer treatments;
  • Cancerous, benign, or pituitary tumours;
  • Stress, trauma, or injury;
  • Eating disorders;
  • Diabetes or diabetes insipidus;
  • Hypo or hyperthyroidism (underactive or overactive thyroid),

Note that if you believe that you have a hormone imbalance, talk to your doctor and follow their recommendations. Information in this article does not substitute medical advice and treatment.

Infographic Can Exercise help Balance Hormones

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Can Exercise Affect Hormones – Your Happy Hormone Exercise Guide


How does Exercise Affect Hormones?

Supporting balanced hormone levels can be helped by the hormones that are affected by exercise. Exercise can impact three overarching types of hormones: happy hormones, anabolic hormones, and stress hormones. Anabolic hormones are the happy hormones dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins.

Types of Happy Hormones

Dopamine is our pleasure hormone which helps with learning, motor skills, and memory. It can also affect your mood, appetite, digestion, and your sleep. Much like dopamine, serotonin helps stabilize your mood, well-being, and your overall happiness in addition to aiding your sleep, appetite, and digestion.

The most notable hormone linked to exercise are endorphins which serve as our natural painkillers. They are released from our pituitary gland when we experience pain or stress. Endorphins are the reason you feel great after working out, like the runner’s high.

Many medical professionals will recommend exercise to improve conditions like depression and anxiety since it increases the amount of happy hormones in our body, which ultimately boosts our mood. Serotonin released from physical activity can also help us sleep and can help combat insomnia.

Types of Anabolic Hormones

The next set of hormones that are impacted by exercise are your anabolic hormones. Anabolic hormones help you grow and build muscle. The first type of anabolic hormone is the human growth hormone (HGH), which aids growth, body composition, metabolism, and even cell repair. Growth hormones are extremely helpful if you’re looking to boost your muscle growth or your strength, or even simply improve your performance. If your HGH levels are low, you can get them back up by improving your diet and lifestyle.

Testosterone is another anabolic hormone that is present in everyone at different levels and affects several bodily functions such as bone strength, muscle mass, and maintaining a healthy body overall. While testosterone is typically higher in men, women also need certain amount of testosterone to be healthy.

Overall, testosterone and growth hormones are integral to muscle growth and increasing metabolism. Higher levels of testosterone in men often result in males having a lower body fat percentage than women because of their faster metabolism.

Estrogen is the anabolic hormone responsible for cognitive and bone health, the cardiovascular system, and reproductive health. Much like testosterone, it is present in everyone but women tend to have more estrogen.

Sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone decrease as we get older, but regular exercise can help slow the symptoms of menopause and signs of ageing.

The last anabolic hormone we’ll cover is insulin, which regulates things like your blood sugar, carbs, and protein to provide your body with energy. The more you exercise, your insulin will increase causing you to be more hungry since your body needs more nutrients to build muscles and repair your body.

The term insulin resistance refers to the phenomenon when the body doesn’t respond well to the hormone insulin and isn’t able to take glucose, or sugar, from your blood. This can lead to prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. Exercise can actually help prevent insulin resistance from occurring and improve sensitivity to insulin.

Types of Stress Hormones

Stress is your body’s natural response to threats or danger, but stress hormones can also be impacted by physical activity.

Cortisol is the most noteworthy stress hormone which increases the amount of sugar in the bloodstream. It’s often triggered by acute stress, awakening in the morning, and exercising. Consistent exercise can actually lower cortisol levels since high cortisol is linked to chronic stress.

Adrenaline is often associated with our body’s fight or flight response. It increases the heart rate as well as blood flow to your brain and muscles. If you’re heard the term “adrenaline rush,” this typically refers to the excitement or nerves in your body which can be triggered by different activities.

Finally, thyroid hormones are in control of your metabolism and body temperature. These hormones regulate how fast or slow you burn calories and ultimately determines if you will lose or gain weight depending on your metabolism. Routine physical activity can actually increase your metabolism and the rate at which you burn calories.

How Different Types of Exercise Affect Hormones

The type of exercise you engage in can affect different hormones in the body. For example, High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, helps increase HGH and improves sensitivity to insulin.

Try this HIIT workout: Try sprinting for thirty seconds followed by a forty-five second rest for 15-20 minutes, 2-3 times per week.

Strength training is a type of exercise that emphasizes building muscle and strength using weights or bodyweight exercises. This type of exercise is excellent for balancing cortisol levels and improving sex hormones release.

Try this strength training workout: Implement a full-body routine with squats, push-ups, lunges, and pull-ups 2-3 times per week.

Walking is a lower-impact form of cardio that is great for beginners looking to adopt an active lifestyle. It’s great for helping your body release endorphins and lowering your stress hormones.

Try this walking workout: Take a brisk walk for half an hour 3-5 times a week.

Yoga is a type of exercise that stretches your muscles and improves your flexibility. It’s known to help lower your stress and cortisol levels.

Try this yoga routine: If you prefer a slower, relaxed pace, try Hatha yoga. For more intensity, try a Vinyasa yoga session.

Below, we’ve included an example weekly workout plan you can follow to improve your overall strength and wellness. Make sure to stretch before or after each workout and to incorporate some movement on your rest day.

  • Monday: 20 minutes of HIIT or upper body strength training;
  • Tuesday: 30-45 minute walk or 3-4 10 minute walks;
  • Wednesday: 45 minutes of cycling or aerobics;
  • Thursday: 20 minutes of HIIT or lower body strength training;
  • Friday: 30-45 minute walk or 3-4 10 minute walks;
  • Saturday: 45 minutes of yoga or Pilates
  • Sunday: Rest day – massage your muscles with a foam roller

Tips to Maintain Health Hormone Levels

There are plenty of lifestyle changes we can make to maintain healthy hormone balance in our bodies. The first and most often mentioned tip is to keep your stress levels low. Overproduction of stress hormones can eventually result in physical and emotional stress manifesting in our bodies. To combat this, try to implement regular exercise in your schedule, practise meditation, or other mindful activities to reduce overall stress.

Another crucial aspect of health is getting enough sleep. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body isn’t able to regulate your stress hormones and keep your immune system strong the way it normally would. Try to implement a set bedtime and time you wake up to regulate your body clock. It’s also a good idea to limit caffeine intake after 12pm in order to maintain good sleep quality.

Your diet is another pillar of a healthy lifestyle. Hormonal balance is deeply impacted by the food we consume, so focusing on getting the adequate amount of nutrition from our diet is extremely important. Including carbs that are high in fiber, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats in your diet will help you maintain a healthy hormone balance.

And of course, exercise plays a big role in how our hormones behave. Consistently working physical activity into your schedule is an excellent way to maintain healthy insulin levels and keep your stress hormones balanced. Find an exercise that works for you and you’re off to a great start.



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About Mitali Shukla

Mitali Shukla is a junior content marketing specialist for Siege Media based out of Southern California. She has been copywriting for three years for a variety of subjects such as, fitness, business, finance, recruiting. She may be contacted via

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