Strength Training and Cardio Affect Hormone Production: is this True?

· 20th May 2019
What are the consequences that the different types of exercises cause in our bodies on a hormonal level? Every alteration has a purpose and a consequence: learn about them in this article.

Strength training and cardio are not the only elements that affect hormone production. Any physical activity activates the secretion of hormones that are essential to provide your body with the necessary energy to move around. Learn more about this in the following article.

The reality is that both, working out and being sedentary, will directly affect the functioning of your body. Just as always, extremes are bad. Total physical inactivity, as well as an excess of exercise, will generate hormone imbalances.

Strength training and cardio: differences on a hormonal level

Hormone production is different depending on the type of exercise you do. This is because the demands and requirements of one group of movements are not the same as others. Therefore, the needs of your body may vary to adapt to each circumstance.

Cardiovascular and resistance training activates a larger number of FGF (Fibroblast Growth Factor) hormones. These hormones come into play with mitotic activity and DNA synthesis.

Out of this hormone group, FGF21 is related to the control of diabetes, obesity and other metabolic disorders. In fact, it’s frequently used as a drug in treatments dedicated to fighting those kinds of disorders.

With 45 minutes of moderate cardio twice a week, there will be an important increase in FGF21 in your bloodstream. As a matter of fact, it will be enough to turn into an active element in the fight and prevention of these conditions.

On the other hand, dedicating the same amount of time to strength training, with the same weekly frequency, the increase in these types of hormones will be up to three times less.

Woman doing strength training after cardio

Physical activity and insulin

The effects of insulin have been studied by the scientific community for decades. However, the investigations surrounding its relationship between generating energy in the body and physical activities are relatively recent.

During strength training and cardio, the production of insulin temporarily stops. The pancreas, (the organ responsible for its production), has the function of reducing the glycemic index. Or in other words: the presence of sugar inside the bloodstream.

When you work out, since the muscles contract, no matter what kind of exercise you’re performing, your body activates a parallel mechanism that “exploits” glucose as a fuel source. This is something that happens with or without insulin.

Exercises, euphoria and good humor

People who adopt regular routines of physical activities, even if they’re basic exercises such as walking, develop a certain kind of physical dependency. Some even use the expression “sports addicts”.

The key is in the fact that strength training and cardio increase the production of endorphins in the brain. They’re neurotransmitters helping to endure the pain or high physical effort, vital to bear weight lifting work.

Resistance athletes, such as swimmers or runners, also have high levels of these hormones. That’s how they achieve euphoric feelings after they cross the finish line or complete a training session.

On the other hand, cardiovascular exercises come into play with the increase of another neurotransmitter in the cerebral cortex: serotonin. This hormone contributes to diminishing the symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Woman doing strength training

The two sides of the same coin

Among the many problems that an inactive lifestyle causes, the ones that are related to low hormone production in the body really stand out. Besides, the increase in other hormones becomes very important as they could have negative effects on your health. This is the case with cortisol.

An excessive amount of this hormone can have very harmful effects. Cortisol can cause digestive problems, sleep disorders and drastic mood changes; likewise, it can influence weight gain and deterioration of the skin.

However, a lack of exercise can be as damaging as over-training. The stress that comes from continuous high-intensity activities can result in adrenal gland disorders. As a consequence of this, the production of cortisol may spiral out of control.

Ultimately, an excess of cardio can also cause an imbalance in the production of testosterone. This may cause some men to suffer from hypogonadism, which is the inhibition of testicular functions. Among other issues, this could drastically affect the sex life of the individual.

  • Ortega, A., Chamorro, C., & Gallego, O. (2011). Nuevo sistema de entrenamiento físico con bandas elásticas y dinamometría computarizada MULTIBAND. Revista Politécnica, 49–56. https://doi.org/ISSN 1900-2351