Does exercise affect female hormones?

30 May 2024 143 view(s)
Does exercise affect female hormones?

Does exercise affect female hormones?

Exercise is one of the best lifestyle habits to adopt for women of all ages and can have beneficial effects on both physical and mental health. Cardiovascular and strength training exercises are commonly recommended together, with the frequency and intensity of these being tweaked as women move through hormonal changes, both across the month and throughout life.  

How does exercise affect hormones?

Regular exercise can help with hormonal balance by improving the regularity and quality of the menstrual cycle, which is a sign of healthy hormone balance. After exercise there is a moderate but transient increase in certain hormones such as oestrogen, testosterone and growth hormone, this helps the body adapt to an exercise, improving endurance and helping to build muscle – which all support metabolic health. 

What exercises are good for female hormones?

Strength training

Many women steer clear of the weights section at the gym, worrying that it will make them ‘bulky’ and prefer instead to stick to cardio as a form of exercise. While the latter can benefit cardiovascular health and fitness, strength training is a great option to help tone and shape muscles, protect bone density and increase the metabolic rate. 

Cardiovascular exercise

Whether it be a high intensity HIIT workout, a run or a walk, aerobic exercise is undoubtedly good for overall health, benefiting the cardiovascular and metabolic health. Aside from burning calories to help with maintain a healthy weight, it can enhance fitness, stamina and improve oxygen use. 

Movement exercises

Movement based practices such as yoga, tai chi and pilates can range from relaxing and slow steady poses to flowing vinyasa practices. This type of movement has been shown to support mental and physical health in many ways.

Hormones released during exercise

Many chemicals are released during exercise including endorphins – feel good chemicals that improve mood and well-being. 

Alongside the stress hormone cortisol, other hormones released during exercise include adrenaline which helps to increase the heart rate and elevate blood sugars to fuel activity, testosterone which is released during intense strength training sessions (more so in men than women) and human growth hormone, which supports muscle growth and is released during sprinting or heavy weightlifting. 

Stress hormones and exercise

Cortisol is a stress hormone released during exercise that helps regulate the metabolism and breaks down glucose and fatty acids to fuel workouts. However, frequent or prolonged high intensity exercise, without appropriate recovery or adequate nutrition and calories can lead to a decline in hormonal health. The increase in cortisol and subsequent health effects can imbalance other important sex hormones needed for hormonal balance.

Exercising in sync with hormones 

Cycle syncing is a means to support women to live more in tune with their cycle and the hormonal changes that occur throughout the month. The average cycle of 28 days consists of a follicular phase between day 1 and 14 where oestrogen starts to increase, followed by ovulation occurring between days 14 and 15 (peak of oestrogen and testosterone), followed by the luteal phase between days 15 to 28, which is where progesterone gradually rises. 

It is thought that more intense exercise is better suited to the follicular and ovulation phase when oestrogen is rising and peaking. Oestrogen helps support energy production and reduces muscle damage as well as increasing stamina. During the luteal phase, when oestrogen begins to decline and progesterone takes over, you may feel like you have less energy and exercise stamina and so opting for lower intense exercise and lighter cardiovascular exercise might be a better option. Progesterone rising in the second half of the cycle has catabolic effect meaning that it can increase muscle damage, making recovery from intense exercise less sufficient. 

Exercise is still encouraged in the second half of the cycle, and many find that it can help with pre-menstrual syndrome as it can increase endorphins and elevates mood.

Exercise in peri menopause and menopause

Exercise during perimenopause and into the menopause is a fantastic way to support your metabolic health and can have many benefits to the cardiovascular system, blood sugar management and weight management. Strength training is especially important as we age to support bone density and muscle mass, which starts to decrease from as young as 30 years old! Oestrogen is an important player in maintaining bone health and so when levels start to decline during the transition into menopause, weight bearing exercise can help mitigate these changes, whilst helping to maintain lean muscle mass which supports weight management. 

Healthy Summer Salad Recipe

This healthy summer salad includes protein, fibre and healthy fats to help balance blood sugar and refuel after your workout. 

Ingredients:

  • Cooked Quinoa – this grain contains all 9 essential amino acids and so is a great protein packed carbohydrate source
  • Black beans – beans and pulses are rich in protein and fibre, helping to support gut health and increase satiety. 
  • Roasted broccolini – this cruciferous veggie helps support liver detoxification and supports gut health – both key plays in ensuring used hormones are excreted properly.
  • Shredded raw carrot – full of beta carotene and antioxidants, raw carrot gives this salad a bit of crunch.
  • Cooked beetroot – contains antioxidants, potassium, iron, vitamin C, manganese and folate along with other healthful compounds that improve nitric oxide production that has been shown to support exercise performance!

Dressing:

Mix 2 tablespoons of tahini, 1-2 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of cayenne pepper and a squeeze of lemon to make a refreshing dressing full of polyphenols and healthy fats.

 

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