Exercise and Hormones: A Deep Dive into Balancing Health

#functionaltraining #hormonehealth #womenshealth Sep 04, 2023

Hormonal health is a cornerstone of overall well-being, influencing various bodily functions such as metabolism, immune response, and reproductive health. The relationship between exercise and hormonal balance is intricate and multifaceted. In this blog, we delve into the science behind how exercise can influence hormones and explore the delicate balance required to optimize hormonal health.

Hormones and Their Role in the Body:

Hormones act as messengers, coordinating physiological processes throughout the body. Key hormones include insulin, cortisol, estrogen, testosterone, and thyroid hormones. Maintaining hormonal balance is vital, as even slight imbalances can lead to a range of health issues, from mood swings to chronic diseases.

The Exercise-Hormone Connection: Finding the Goldilocks Zone:

Exercise is a potent stressor that elicits adaptive responses in the body. Moderate exercise, in the "Goldilocks zone," triggers hormesis—an adaptive process where controlled stressors yield positive health benefits. However, both too much and too little exercise can disrupt hormonal balance. Striking the right balance is essential for optimal hormonal health.

Hormonal Response to Exercise:

Exercise influences hormones through various mechanisms. During aerobic exercise, insulin sensitivity improves, aiding glucose uptake by cells. Resistance training stimulates testosterone production, contributing to muscle growth. Cortisol, the stress hormone, increases during exercise but typically returns to baseline after exertion. Chronic stress from excessive exercise, however, can elevate cortisol levels long-term.

Too Little Exercise: Effects on Hormones:

A sedentary lifestyle is associated with detrimental effects on hormonal health. Reduced physical activity contributes to insulin resistance, leading to imbalanced blood sugar levels. Cortisol levels may remain chronically elevated due to lack of stress-reducing exercise. Additionally, sedentary behaviour is linked to disrupted sex hormone production, impacting reproductive health.

Too Much Exercise: Hormonal Imbalances and Overtraining:

Overtraining syndrome results from excessive exercise without sufficient recovery. Prolonged overtraining can lead to hormonal imbalances, particularly elevated cortisol levels. Chronically elevated cortisol negatively affects immune function, metabolism, and sex hormone production. Inflammation and oxidative stress are heightened, further disrupting hormonal equilibrium.

Best Types of Exercise for Balancing Hormones:

Resistance Training: Incorporate strength training exercises using weights or resistance bands. Resistance training enhances muscle growth and supports healthy testosterone levels, which are essential for both men and women.

Aerobic Exercise: Engaging in moderate-intensity aerobic activities such as brisk walking, jogging, or cycling can improve insulin sensitivity and support hormonal balance. I call this "Zone 2 training". Ideally you would aim for at least 150 minutes per week to reap these benefits.

Yoga and Mindfulness: Practices like yoga and mindfulness-based activities reduce cortisol levels, promoting relaxation and stress management. The mind-body connection established through these practices contributes to hormonal harmony.

Interval Training: High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) alternates short bursts of intense exercise with periods of lower intensity or rest. HIIT can enhance insulin sensitivity and stimulate growth hormone release, supporting metabolic health. I tend to use these types of sets as "finishers" in a strength workout. They should last no longer than around 12-mins. It's not uncommon to find workout classes that are focused solely on this type opf programming lasting 20-45minutes! Be aware of this type of training as it can wreak havoc on your hormones over the long run! And in general, make sure to not include too much HIIT into your exercise routine.

Mobility Training: Range of motion training from a focused mindful perspective is helpful for reducing overall tension in the body, enhancing circulation and calming the nervous system. You can work mobility into your strength program, yoga sessions, or do targeted mobility training all on its own.

Finding the Balance: Exercise Recommendations for Hormone Health:

Strength training supported by moderate-intensity cardiovascular training is ideal for overall hormone health as women age. Aim for 2-4 focused strength sessions/week, an accumulated 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity weekly, and mobility training sprinkled throughout the week. Balancing exercise types prevents excessive stress on specific systems, fostering holistic hormonal health. Prioritize post-workout recovery, as sleep and rest days aid hormone restoration.

Personalized Approach: Listening to Your Body:

Individual responses to exercise vary. Pay attention to signs of overtraining, such as persistent fatigue, decreased performance, and mood changes. Tailor exercise routines to personal needs and preferences. If you're feeling like you're bumping up against road blocks and need to dive deeper into some underlying root causes, reach out and we can schedule a discovery call to look at some functional testing to assess your hormonal health and design personalized plan to you on track.


The interplay between exercise and hormonal health is intricate and dynamic. Striking the balance between too much and too little exercise is vital for optimal well-being. By understanding the scientific mechanisms behind exercise's impact on hormones, individuals can make informed choices to promote hormonal balance, overall health, and vitality.

Additional Resources:

For further reading and guidance on exercise's impact on hormonal health, consider exploring the following resources:

-Article: Hormonal Responses to Exercise and Training: 

-Check out the Aligned Wellness Collective for monthly programming and webinars to help support a holistic approach to movement and wellbeing.

-If you live in the Bow Valley, book an osteopathic session with me.

-Reach out for information on functional nutrition testing to uncover some of the things that may be impeding your health journey.


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