Exercise Can Boost Testosterone in Overweight Men

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Vigorous exercise can boost testosterone levels in overweight and obese men, lowering the chances of related health disorders.

Researchers discovered that testosterone levels “significantly increased in overweight/obese men” following a three-month aerobic exercise program, according to a new study presented at the Integrative Biology of Exercise 7 meeting in Phoenix.

Courtesy: Tony Alter/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

“Testosterone is a male sex hormone and low circulating testosterone levels lead to various health disorders in men. Obesity, one of the biggest problems in the world, results in reduction in circulating testosterone levels in men,” write the study authors from Tsukuba University and Ryutsu Keizai University in Japan.

Previous studies have linked a combination of diet and exercise to healthier testosterone levels, but “the effect of habitual aerobic exercise on circulating testosterone levels has not been clarified yet,” note the researchers.

That is, until now. To gain their findings, the research team assessed circulating testosterone levels in study participants engaged in a 12-week aerobic exercise program that involved walking or jogging between 40 and 60 minutes per day three times a week.

The researchers compared the testosterone levels of a normal-weight group and an overweight group, both of whom completed the 12-week exercise program.

While the obese and overweight group began the study with lower levels of testosterone in comparison to their normal-weight counterparts, they saw significant gains in overall testosterone levels.

“I think decrease in body mass is one of the factors for increasing serum testosterone levels,” said Hiroshi Kumagai, lead researcher of the study. “However, the degree of weight loss is small, and we found that the increase in vigorous physical activity was independently associated with the increase in serum testosterone levels. So, it seems the increase in physical activity, especially vigorous physical activity, is the main factor for increasing serum testosterone levels.”

More Demanding Exercise Pushes Levels Higher

The researchers measured three distinct serum levels – total testosterone, free testosterone and bioavailable testosterone, all of which are important markers of a person’s level of the sex hormone. Low testosterone levels can cause mood changes, abnormally thin bones and a decreased sex drive.

About 50 percent of overweight and obese individuals suffer from low testosterone, according to the Urology Care Foundation. Suppressed levels can also lead to depression and feelings of low energy.

Ultimately, the researchers discovered that regular aerobic exercise is linked to an increase in all three testosterone markers among overweight and obese individuals. Also, they found a notable link between how vigorous the exercise was and a related spike in total testosterone – in other words, the more physically demanding the exercise routine the greater the gains one saw in their overall hormone levels.

For people seeking to ramp up testosterone production, the study authors recommend an “increase in vigorous physical activity.”

In Kumagai’s previous study, he found a direct link between a jump in testosterone levels and a concordant decrease in blood pressure, suggesting further benefits of regular physical activity for overweight and obese individuals.

The researchers noted that the normal-weight study participants did not experience increased testosterone levels after the 12-week exercise program.

Richard Scott
Richard Scott is a health care reporter focusing on health policy and public health. Richard keeps tabs on national health trends from his Philadelphia location and is an active member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.