For both men and women, there is a close relationship between testosterone and exercise.
But it’s not at all what you think.
Testosterone and Exercise—the Basics
Yes, exercise can increase your levels of testosterone. However, for this to work, you need two specific types of exercise: heavy compound lifts or high intensity interval training.
Heavy compound lifts include bench press, deadlift, squats, overhead press, and rows (done at a very heavy weight with lower reps).
High intensity interval training means working out as hard as you possibly can (such as during a full-out sprint) for about 30 seconds and then resting for 15 seconds and repeating.
To learn more about both of these types of exercises, read my blog post here.
Still, you’re only likely to raise your testosterone slightly and temporarily. For most men and women with low testosterone, this isn’t going to be sufficient—their levels are too low for exercise to push things back to normal.
If your testosterone levels are borderline, however, you may find that regular exercise can improve your symptoms.
Testosterone and Exercise: Overtraining
It may not seem to make much sense, but there’s such a thing as too much exercise. And some types of exercise, while certainly good for your body, aren’t necessarily going to improve your testosterone.
There are a couple of other types of exercise out there that either a) aren’t going to boost your testosterone much or b) might actually reduce your testosterone.
Low intensity steady state cardio (like a long run or jog at the same pace) will do wonders for your heart (and possibly help you lose weight), but, while it likely won’t reduce your testosterone levels, it’s not going to do much to increase them either.
As far as actually reducing your testosterone levels, overtraining your body can do precisely that. Overtraining is simply working out too much—running or lifting for hours at a time every day can very quickly fatigue your body (and sap your hormones).
As far as testosterone and exercise is concerned, the effects are pretty minimal—your levels aren’t going to raise for much more than an hour even with intense heavy lifting.
However, There’s Something Else at Play When it Comes to Testosterone and Exercise — and Any Type of Exercise can Affect it
When you’ve accumulated fat on your body, it doesn’t just sit there, waiting for exercise to destroy it.
It’s doing something more sinister.
A recent study found that fat can actually act as an estrogen producing organ. And more estrogen generally leads to lower levels of testosterone.
This, more than any other reason, is why you should exercise more if you think you have low testosterone—reducing fat may lead to increased levels of testosterone.
Easier said than done. If your testosterone is low, you may suffer from fatigue, low energy, or just a general lack of motivation. Getting into the gym might be next to impossible.
And once you’re in the gym, you might not be getting results—testosterone is critical to muscle building, and if your testosterone is extremely low, all the exercise in the world isn’t going to fix it.
Sometimes, the only remedy is testosterone replacement therapy—giving your body the boost it can’t provide itself.
If you’re not sure if you have low testosterone, click here to take our low testosterone symptoms quiz.