Exercise and the Endocrine System

» Posted by on Nov 30, 2010 in Blog | 0 comments

You know this, I know.  Exercise is a “big player” in our personal well-being game.  One of the most overlooked benefits , is the affect exercise has on our endocrine (hormonal) system.  The endocrine system (hormones) controls many physiological functions of our body.  Studies have shown that exercise helps our secrete and receive hormones more efficiently.

Below is a list of hormones and their functions:

Cortisol

Cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone,” is secreted by the adrenal gland and it stores fat, converts muscle mass to fat, breaks down muscle tissue, which causes one to lack muscle tone, and suppresses immune function.  Cortisol levels can rise due to many factors such as: caffeine, inadequate sleep, stress, trauma, and improper nutrition.

You can reduce cortisol levels by the following factors: magnesium (beans, peas, nuts, seeds, etc), omega 3 fatty acids, proper nutrition and high-level conditioning, reduce any unnecessary stress.

Growth Hormone

Despite the bad press human growth hormone (HGH) has received for the synthetic drug pro athletes has used to gain advantages, it is a natural hormone we produce in our bodies.  Growth hormone is secreted by the pituitary gland and it helps strengthen bones and connective tissue.  It also increases strength and metabolizes fat.  Growth hormone can be triggered by sleep and high-intensity exercise.

Some benefits of growth hormone are:

  • increased energy
  • increased aerobic capacity and strength
  • thickening of hair
  • tightening of skin and wrinkles
  • decrease in visceral fat

Testosterone

Believe or not, both men and women produce testosterone.  However, women have approximately one tenth of that of men.  Testosterone increases strength, decreases body fat, maintains muscle strength and tone, and increases feelings of self-confidence.  Below are ways to increase (women-friendly) testosterone levels naturally:

  • eat 5-6 meals a day (instead of 3 large meals)
  • sleep at least 6-8 hours
  • include monosaturated fats in diet (nuts, fish, avocado, etc)
  • increase cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc)
  • reduce stress

Estrogen

The beneficial effects of estrogen includes fat mobilization for fuel (energy), mood elevation, and increased basal metabolic rate (BMR-amount of energy expended while resting).  However, excessive estrogen levels can lead to weight gain by causing increased size of adipose (fat) tissue.  Here are a few ways to reduce estrogen levels but you must first know if you’re estrogen dominant by having blood tests done by your physician:

  • exercise
  • reduce alcohol consumption
  • increase fiber intake
  • go organic (when able to)
  • limit dairy

Thyroxine

Thyroxine is secreted in the thyroid gland and its main role is to elevate the body’s metabolic rate- making it significant for weight-loss.  It increases in blood about 30% during and remains elevated for up to five hours after high-intensity exercise. 

Insulin

Insulin is produced by pancreas and its functions are to utilize glucose (form of sugar in blood) and metabolize fat.  However, excessive insulin responses causes fat to accumulate within cells, and over time, one that frequently experiences such response can become over weight and their cells may develop a resistance to insulin- diabetes. 

Exercise and proper nutrition are a major way to offset any blood-sugar issues as blood-insulin levels decrease ten minutes into exercise and continue to decrease as the workout progresses.

Endorphins

This hormone is released from the pituitary gland under conditions of pain.  However, endorphins block the pain, decrease appetite, create a feeling of euphoria and reduce tension and anxiety.  Exercising is beneficial regarding endorphin release.  An increased sensitivity to endorphins is developed after several months of regular exercise- meaning a higher high will result from the same training stimulus.

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