Exercise strongly influences hormonal balance. One major way is by helping to reverse insulin resistance in the body.

What is insulin resistance?

Insulin regulates blood sugar levels by facilitating the uptake of glucose from the bloodstream into the cell.

When these cells become resistant to insulin, they end up requiring higher levels of insulin to respond leading to elevated levels of insulin and blood sugar levels.

*Insulin resistance affects one in three people in America

What contributes to insulin resistance?

  • Excess body fat, particularly visceral fat around the abdomen
  • A lack of physical activity
  • Poor diet that is high in refined carbohydrates
  • Chronic stress
  • Sleep disorders
  • Other medical conditions and certain medications

How does insulin resistance affect hormonal balance?

  • Lowers sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). This can lead to excess estrogen in the system.
  • Tells the ovaries to make more testosterone, which can throw hormonal balance out of whack.
  • May impair the conversion of T4 to T3, the active form of thyroid hormone.
  • Can lead to elevated cortisol levels. Excess cortisol negatively impacts hormonal balance.
  • Can impair the function of leptin, a hormone that helps regulate appetite. This can disrupt appetite regulation and contribute to overeating and weight gain which can lead to even more resistance.

Physical activity is considered one of the most effective strategies for managing and preventing insulin resistance.

Here is how:

  • Activated muscles use free glucose from blood for energy reducing blood glucose levels. Muscle cells also store glucose!
  • Promotes weight loss. Less visceral fat, more insulin sensitivity.
  • Enhances muscle mass, which increases storage capacity for glucose.
  • Increases mitochondrial function, which increases the capacity for muscle cells to take in glucose for energy.
  • Modulates hormonal response
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Enhances glycogen storage in muscles

Strength training, or weight training, is geared towards improving strength and building muscle. It involves slow and structured movements in a controlled manner.

Examples of popular strength training exercises:

  • Squats
  • Lifting free weights
  • Use of resistance bands
  • Weighted machines

Aerobics exercises are generally any exercise that gets your body moving for a prolonged period of time such as:

  • Walking
  • Dancing
  • Riding a bike
  • Running
  • Hiking
  • Swimming
  • Jumping rope
  • Jogging

The path to balancing hormones can be complex and nuanced, but learning some of the biggest factors at play can really help to make an impact!

A huge contributor to hormonal imbalance is blood sugar dysregulation and insulin resistance.

Did you know that physical activity is considered one of the most effective strategies for managing and preventing insulin resistance?

Research shows that 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercises at least 3 times a week leads to improvements in insulin sensitivity. In terms of weight training, 30-45 minute sessions 2-3 times a week. Whichever you choose, one or the other OR a little bit of both, it is up to you! The most important thing should be that you pick a routine that you love and that is fun, so it is sustainable!

April 03, 2024 — Maxine Nathan