You know exercise is good for you. It helps you build and tone muscle, shed pounds, and metabolize the foods you eat into nutrients you can use. Did you know that exercise also causes your body to release certain hormones that can improve your mood and your health? Here are eight hormones released during exercise that show the importance of training regularly.
#1 – Testosterone
There’s no denying the fact that testosterone is one of the most important hormones in your body. In both men and women, testosterone plays a crucial role in the development of strength and muscle, and it’s also vital for sexual and reproductive health. Low testosterone can cause a myriad of side effects, including but not limited to fatigue, low libido, weakness, weight gain, and more.
When you exercise, testosterone levels rise during your workout, and they stay elevated for 15 minutes to an hour after your workout, too. One study showed a 41.4% increase in testosterone levels in participants who started with aerobic exercise, then moved on to weight training. Those who did it in the reverse order (weight training followed by aerobic exercise) only increased their testosterone levels by 3.3%. The effect is negligible when considering goals though so if you’re trying to put on muscle, still focus on your weight training prior to cardio.
#2 – Irisin
Irisin is one of those hormones you probably haven’t heard much about until now, but it’s incredibly important nonetheless. Over the last couple of decades, researchers have found that certain diseases, which include things like cancer, heart disease, and even Alzheimer’s disease, are more prevalent in people who have short telomeres – the caps at the end of chromosomes that naturally shorten as you age. When you exercise, your body releases a significant amount of irisin, which has been shown to lengthen telomeres in people of all ages – especially in those who work out regularly.
#3 – Peptide YY
Peptide YY is a hormone that your intestines secrete after you’ve eaten. Essentially, it tells your brain that you have had enough to eat, and that you are satisfied. When you exercise, your body secretes peptide YY naturally – but researchers have yet to figure out why this happens. A 2013 study that was published in Appetite shows that weight training and resistance exercise is better at boosting peptide YY levels than aerobic exercise. It’s one of the most important hormones released during exercise since it can help you feel satisfied, even when you lower your caloric intake.
#4 – Serotonin
For years, researchers have proven time and again that serotonin levels increase as you exercise, and this is true whether you’re lifting weights or riding a stationary bicycle. However, more recent research suggests that people who exercise daily have far more serotonin in their bloodstreams than those who exercise only a few times a week. Serotonin is responsible for feelings of happiness, a healthy appetite, and restfulness. There is also evidence to suggest that people who have more serotonin in their bodies are more energetic and think more clearly.
#5 – Dopamine
Dopamine is the pleasure chemical. It’s a neurotransmitter that binds with pleasure receptors in the brain, and it’s been shown to play a role in everything from laughter to orgasms. Studies have shown that people who are overweight often have dopamine receptor deficiencies due to overeating. Eating floods the body with dopamine, and when there’s too much in the body, the brain compensates by reducing the number of receptors open to receive it. Those receptors eventually die off, leaving overeaters with too few receptors. By reducing caloric intake and exercising regularly, it’s possible to essentially “regrow” those receptors and replace the dopamine you get from food with exercise.
#6 – Glucagon
Glucagon is a hormone that is released whenever your blood sugar starts running low, as is the case when you exercise. It’s produced by the pancreas, and it tells the fat cells making up your stored adipose tissue to release free fatty acids (FFAs) into your bloodstream, thus increasing your blood glucose levels. When you work out, your body produces more glucagon so that your pancreas can release enough FFAs to fuel your exercise. Glucagon has been carefully studied for decades. In fact, a study from 1972 on dogs and humans discovered that intense aerobic exercise tended to raise glucagon levels more than weightlifting or resistance training.
#7 – Epinephrine and Norepinephrine
Epinephrine and norepinephrine are both neurotransmitters that help the sympathetic nervous system produce energy and regulate everything from your heartbeat to your temperature. Although the two hormones are different, they are very much related. Epinephrine is often called adrenaline, and this hormone has been clinically proven to elevate your heart rate and increase your blood sugar, all while breaking down glycogen for energy. Norepinephrine does much the same, but it also constructs blood vessels in parts of the body that aren’t used in exercise. Studies have found that this helps in redirecting blood flow to the muscle groups in use, making your workouts far more effective.
#8 – Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF)
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, is a little-known hormone with a big job to do. It’s another neurotransmitter, but this one is responsible for stimulating the production of new brain cells, which can improve cognitive function over time. In one study, a group of individuals was divided in half. Half were asked to do an hour’s worth of high-intensity aerobic exercise each day, and the other half did high-intensity aerobic exercise for half an hour three times per week. After 12 weeks, the first group showed 23% more brain activity when asked to solve math problems during brain scans than the second.
If you’ve been trying to find reasons to start working out, here are some that will undoubtedly get you moving. These eight hormones released during exercise can help you lose weight, feel happier, become smarter, and even reduce your chances of getting diseases as you age.