They say the best workout is the one you’ll actually do, which we couldn't agree more with. Our society has convinced us that exercise is meant to be painful and miserable, which is far from the truth.
Exercise is meant to feel like self-care. And if you’re hating your current routine or it’s draining you of energy, you may be doing the wrong type of exercise for your body, mind, and active needs.
If you’re dealing with hormonal imbalances or infertility in particular, there’s a strategic way to blend in movement types that serve your current need state, while still sticking with any routines you’ve come to love and cherish over the years.
And if you haven’t found your go-to workout yet, this could be your chance to finally land on something that revitalizes your body and leaves you feeling incredible.
The best exercises for hormonal imbalance
Strength training routines that target major muscle groups, such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and rows, help promote hormone health by stimulating muscle growth (helps regulate your blood sugar), secreting testosterone and growth hormone (helps keep your metabolism strong), and regulating cortisol and inflammation.
Consistent movement throughout the day
If you sit at a desk all day, try to get up at least once every hour. Ideally, try to incorporate movement into your days by taking a 5-10 minute walk after every 60-90 minutes of work. Or, you can try taking walking meetings when appropriate or getting an under-desk walking pad.
HIIT (high-intensity interval training)
HIIT workouts involve alternating between intense bursts of activity and short recovery periods (eg, 45 seconds on, 15 off seconds). This type of exercise increases human growth hormone (HGH) levels, which strengthens your metabolism and aids in the production of other hormones. HIIT can also improve your insulin sensitivity, aka your body’s ability to uptake sugar from your blood and convert it into energy
Certain yoga poses, such as inversions (eg, headstands, shoulder stands, legs up the wall), twists, and forward bends can stimulate the endocrine system and promote healthy hormonal function. The stress-reducing benefits of yoga can also help regulate excess cortisol, thereby keeping your overall hormone balance in check.
Pilates focuses on core strength, flexibility, and body awareness. It incorporates controlled movements, precise form, and breathing techniques all at once. Pilates can help manage stress, improve body composition, and strengthen your core and pelvic floor, all of which contribute to equilibrium in the body, including on a hormonal level.
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Practices such as tai chi, qigong, and meditation promote relaxation, mindfulness, and stress reduction — all of which help modulate excess cortisol and improve overall mental well-being, which is vital for keeping your hormones in a healthy, stable place.
The best exercises when trying to conceive
Walking, swimming, yoga, pilates, aerobics, and barre are all amazing options for women who are trying to conceive because they all help you maintain strength, fitness, and flexibility, while not putting excess strain on your body.
A surplus of stress due to consistent strain can disrupt your menstrual cycle, ovulation, production, and quality of cervical mucus (which is necessary for sperm transport and fertilization), as well as your endometrium, the lining of the uterus where an egg implants.
Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise
Engaging in aerobic movements such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming, can support fertility by helping you maintain healthy body composition, releasing endorphins that counteract the negative effects of stress, improving insulin sensitivity (ie, the ability to uptake sugar from your blood and convert it to energy), and boosting sex drive.
It also aids in blood circulation, which helps supply your ovaries and uterus with the essential nutrients and oxygen necessary for proper function.
Strength training can help support conception by increasing the production of hormones like testosterone, human growth hormone, and insulin-like growth factor that each play a role in regulating the menstrual cycle and promoting healthy ovulation.
It also improves insulin sensitivity (helps regulate blood sugar levels), strengthens our metabolism, builds lean muscle mass, and reduces stress — all of which help our bodies maintain robust hormonal balance.
The best exercises for male fertility and hormone balance
Men and women benefit from many of the same exercise types when it comes to hormone balance and fertility but with a few caveats.
Men can tolerate intense and cardiovascular-heavy forms of exercise more often than women, given they are less cortisol sensitive. This doesn’t mean women can’t do a HIIT workout or sprints, but they likely can’t do it as much and as intensely as men without seeing a hit to their overall hormone health.
That being said, these are the go-to recommendations for men who are looking to hone in on their hormone balance and fertility:
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Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise and sports
Regular cardiovascular exercise helps stimulate the production and release of testosterone, which is vital for male reproductive health and hormone balance. It also improves insulin sensitivity, which helps keep blood sugar levels in check, reduces stress, and supports healthy body composition — all of which are vital components in sustaining a robust endocrine system.
Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise has also been associated with improved sperm quality. It may increase sperm count, motility (movement), and morphology (shape), which are all important factors for fertility.
Regular strength training has been shown to boost testosterone levels, which is essential for healthy sperm production and maturation, libido and erectile function, and overall hormone balance.
It also helps men build and maintain muscle mass, which is crucial for a strong metabolism, adequate hormone production, and ample release of growth hormone, which also plays a role in supporting fertility outcomes.
Yoga, stretching, and other relaxation techniques
Yoga and stretching practices often help reduce stress levels by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which brings you out of “fight or flight” and into “rest and digest.”
Stress, when it becomes chronic, can disrupt testosterone production and overall hormone balance.
They both also involve gentle movements that improve blood circulation throughout the body, including to the reproductive organs. Better blood flow to the testes can support optimal hormone production and reproductive health.
Pelvic floor exercises
Pelvic floor exercises such as Kegels are not just for women, they apply to men too.
While pelvic floor exercises aren’t directly linked to hormone balance, they can indirectly support male fertility by strengthening pelvic floor muscles which can improve erectile function, enhance ejaculatory control, support prostate health, which plays a key role in semen production, and boost overall confidence related to sexual health.
And remember — recovery is part of working out. Giving your body a rest, especially when you can sense it’s craving one, it’s equally as vital to hormone balance and fertility as getting moving in the first place.
Caroline McMorrow is Rescripted's Content Manager.