5 Hormones Every Active Woman Should Know

5 Hormones Every Active Woman Should Know

Originally appeared on Well + Good.

Hormones are one of your body’s main signaling systems. Think of them as tiny traffic cops: They direct biochemical messages that regulate everything from your sex drive to your metabolism, mood, sleep, and fertility.

Given the amount of information they’re responsible for ferrying, it’s easy to see how mixed signals might affect the way you feel and function. One natural way to help keep your hormones in balance, however, is through exercise—and science is still discovering just how good a sweat session can be for your overall health.

“Increasingly, we’re learning that your muscle serves as another endocrine organ that plays a key role in metabolism by talking to other organs such as the fat tissue, brain, and liver, and most certainly, by releasing hormones,” says Sara Gottfried, MD, author of The Hormone Cure and The Hormone Reset Diet.

In particular, Dr. Gottfried says five hormones are influenced by your fitness routine: irisin, estrogen, testosterone, human growth hormone, and cortisol.

So getting green lights from this group can put you on a fast track toward becoming you healthiest, happiest self.

Here’s what each hormone does—and how exercise can improve its performance.


Its job: Irisin is literally referred to as the exercise hormone, which basically makes it your biological workout buddy. Recent research has shown it battles fat on two fronts: First by activating genes that turn bad white fat into good brown fat, and also by regulating undifferentiated stem cells to become bone-building cells instead of fat storage. It may also protect brain cells from injury and aging.

How exercise affects it: Getting sweaty stimulates your body’s irisin production. In one small trial, single afternoon sessions of both moderate intensity exercise and HIIT raised levels of the hormone by 12 percent among obese women; in another study, single sessions of both intense endurance exercise and strength training increased irisin—all the more reason women should hit the heavy weights.

“One of the best ways to turn on irisin is to perform intermittent fasting for 18 hours and follow it with moderate exercise or HIIT training,” Dr. Gottfried says. But even if you can’t follow that protocol, you’ll likely get an irisin boost just from working up a sweat.


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