Exercise and Testosterone: How Physical Activity Affects Hormone Levels

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Exercise and Testosterone: How Physical Activity Affects Hormone Levels

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Exercise and testosterone increase are positively related. There are several factors that must be considered before strategizing a plan like a nutritious diet, proper sleep schedule, and routine exercises. The best exercise for testosterone increase is weight lifting and other strength training. A testosterone workout may be a good idea to invest in for a healthier sexual life.

It is common to assume that exercise helps regulate several types of hormones. Largely, it is true. But how exactly are exercise and testosterone related? To understand that, we need to first discuss testosterone and factors that may reduce the hormone’s production.

Testosterone is the key male hormone that regulates sexual organs and desires. While it is present in both males and females, it plays a key role in regulating sex differentiation and characteristics, as well as in fertility. Alike other hormones, testosterone is supposed to be healthily regulated.

If not, males can experience fatigue, sexual dysfunction, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating and hot flashes. If ignored, these conditions can affect the physiological well-being of men.

Factors that may decrease testosterone

There are a number of factors that affect the testosterone levels in males. These are categorised into two groupings: primary and secondary hypogonadism. Hypogonadism is the decreased function of the gonads (testes/ovaries).

Primary hypogonadism

It is an under-activity that can be an inherited trait or acquired by accident or illness. Conditions include:

  • Undescended testicles: sometimes, before birth, testicles fail to descend from the abdomen
  • Klinefelter’s syndrome: male child is born with three chromosomes (X, X, Y)
  • Hemochromatosis: excessive iron in the blood causes testicular failure


Secondary hypogonadism

This involves damage to the pituitary gland or the hypothalamus. These two control the hormone production in the testes. This category includes inherited and acquired conditions:

Inherited conditions:

  • Pituitary disorders: these can be caused by drugs, kidney failure, small tumors

  • Kallmann syndrome: this is associated with an abnormal hypothalamus function

  • Inflammatory diseases: tuberculosis, sarcoidosis, histiocytosis, etc.


Acquired conditions:

  • Aging: this affects the production and the physiological response to hormones

  • Obesity

  • Medications: Opioid pain medicines and steroids affect as well

  • Concurrent illness: prolonged emotional or physical stress can act as a reason for the reproductive system to shut down temporarily.

  • Poor nutritional intake and sleep schedule

Exercise and Testosterone Increase: The Link

Several studies have debated over whether there is any particular “testosterone workout” that can help increase its production. While there is no simple answer to this, research shows a positive correlation.

How can we associate exercise and testosterone increase?

There are several ways you can regulate the production of testosterone. One of the most common ways is exercise to raise testosterone. Research shows that hormones can be regulated or altered via appropriate exercise.

There are many factors under exercise that play their roles:

  • Different types: endurance and resistance

  • Training intensity and duration of rest periods

  • Demographic differences (age, obesity, physique)

  • Duration of the effect

Endurance vs resistance exercise

Endurance (or aerobic) exercise includes types of cardiovascular conditioning where the focus is purely on increasing breathing and heart rate for a specific period. Common examples are running or cycling.

Resistance exercise is also known as strength and weight training. This involves stimulating particular skeletal muscles against an external form of resistance, like free weights or machines. Examples are heavy weightlifting, jumping or sprinting.

Intensity in exercise to improve testosterone; rest periods

There needs to be a significant amount of intensity to produce any effect on the production of hormones. If other factors are kept common, the one with the highest intensity induces the most change in hormonal levels.

To produce post-exercise serum testosterone increase, research proves that men need to exercise with a moderate to high intensity with short resting periods mid-sets.

Demographic differences

These play a significant role in deciding if men can boost testosterone with exercise. Studies have shown that exercise regulates testosterone at a faster rate in young men than older men. Similar concept is applied to healthier men when compared to obese men. A good physique helps by making it easier for the body to regulate the hormones. A significant difference was seen in the levels of hormones between athletic people and non-athletic people.

While age is a factor, similar responses were seen when healthy young men and healthy older men were compared, thus concluding that a healthy physiology is really important.

Duration of the effect

While men may want to use exercise to improve testosterone levels, it is important to note that some exercises have a short-term effect, while some may lead to a longer post-exercise serum testosterone increase.

It is noted that the best exercise for testosterone increase is resistance in nature. While aerobic exercises like running, cycling, etc. increase plasma testosterone concentrations, the effect does not last long. People showed an increase in serum testosterone concentration by 20 minutes into recovery, but it began declining post-90 minutes.

Some studies debated over how endurance exercises put the body under so much stress, that while it increases the testosterone concentration temporarily, the physical stress produces Cortisol, which in turn inhibits the hormone’s production. Other research discussed the possibility of hepatic plasma flow (liver blood flow), metabolic clearance and plasma volume decreasing with the increase in the duration of endurance exercise, which in turn negatively affects testosterone production.

A most acute increase in testosterone concentration is seen with resistance exercises. The major factor under this is the muscle mass being focused on: if a small muscle mass is concentrated, the effect might not be significant, but if a larger muscle mass is used, the effect may be evident.

The relation between testosterone and weight lifting is a positive one, provided men pair it with other sets of resistance exercises as well. A well-balanced combination of such exercises is bound to induce a notable amount of testosterone.

Changes in resting serum testosterone levels may be encouraged by exercise. Most of the research concludes the role of resistance exercises in the regulation of testosterone as the main one. Further research will shed light on exactly how long the effect lasts.

Other hormones affected by exercise

It has been discussed at length how exercise and testosterone are related. But there are several other hormones that get regulated by regular exercise as well. Dopamine (decreases stress), serotonin (aids in sleeping well at night), estrogen (regulates menstruation cycle), etc. are all involved in the process.

Cortisol, prolactin, and growth hormone are few that rise during exercise, while luteinizing hormone levels rise only after rest. No alteration is observed in the levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). There are several other factors that are involved in measuring these hormones as well.

Best exercise for testosterone

As mentioned above, exercise and testosterone increase are highly linked. The best exercises to boost testosterone are resistance exercises. Testosterone and weight lifting share an effect and causal relationship. Along with that, routine strength training helps as well. It is important to note that different exercises and routines help different kinds of people. Some research mentions how resistance exercise might not actually help females and only affects males.

To boost testosterone, exercise like High-Intensive Interval Training (HIIT) is also proven to work, mainly in males. This basically has a pre-defined interval period along with the time allotted to exercise. For example, doing intense treadmill exercise for 90 seconds, taking 90 seconds for recovery, and repeating this cycle is proven to be better than running straight for 45 minutes.

Other exercises that can be included in the “testosterone workout” list are squats, overhead presses, pull-ups, crunches, push-ups, yoga, etc. Several forms of exercise that are meant to keep you healthy may indirectly help in regulating hormones.

NOT the best exercise for testosterone

Cardio. There is not a lot of evidence that certifies that cardio helps in regulating hormones, even though it is a good form of exercise. Doing cardio in general will keep your body fit and running, which invariably affects the hormonal levels.

It has been studied that HIIT might not work on women as it works on men, in fact, it could be harmful after a certain point.

Tips & tricks

  • Eat a healthy diet, that is inclusive of all the nutrients that your body (with respect to age, sex, other health conditions) requires.

  • Deal with stress before it becomes chronic. Chronic stress has multiple negative implications on your body, physically and mentally.

  • Stroll under the morning sunshine. It improves mood and provides you with vitamin D. Apart from vitamin D, ensure you are consuming natural or supplementary vitamins.

  • Sleep schedule. Minimum 7 to 10 hours of sleep every night is necessary (regardless of age)

  • Natural herbs and spices help with building immunity

  • Avoid chemicals like BPA that may inhibit the production of certain essential hormones.

  • Avoid glucocorticoid medications such as prednisone or opioid pain medications.


Testosterone replacement is also an option you could consider along with your doctor, in case the previously mentioned methods are not working. Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) can help immensely, especially young males with hypogonadism. Highly advised to consult your doctor before you opt for this.

Usually, one or a combination of all of the above helps in maintaining a healthy body and mind, which in turn regulates the production of hormones. It is important to aptly focus on your hormones and their production to avoid any relevant ailments.


1.Will exercising increase my testosterone levels?

Ans: Yes, exercise and testosterone increase are positively related. What you must focus on are strength exercises, a healthy diet and a proper sleep schedule. You can also routinely invest in a highly intensive training.

2.Is stress causing me to sexually perform poorly?

Ans: There are multiple factors that could be causing issues in your sexual life. Stress can play a vital role, chronic stress can cause depression, low testosterone levels, and an upset mood. This can create resistance between you and your partner.

Regulating stress levels is as important as consuming a nutritious diet.

3.Can a woman increase her estrogen levels by exercising?

Ans: Yes. Similar to how males can increase their testosterone levels, however temporarily, it is studied that exercise helps regulate estrogen as well.

4.Is it harder for an obese to increase their testosterone levels?

Ans: At times obesity can cause more difficulty in increasing the testosterone levels. But eventually, the consistent and planned steps taken towards the goal become evident.



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