What’s the connection between estrogen levels and exercise? Whether you assess estrogen levels by labs or messages your body sends you, estrogen status is an important consideration in your exercise plan. If you want to feel better, sleep better, and avoid fat deposits and find optimal weight, your exercise choices matter. This post will give you insight for making the best hormone balancing fitness plan.
Effects of Exercise on Estrogen
- Exercise normalizes estrogen in perimenopause and menopausal women (if it’s done at the right dose).
- Exercise reduces harmful estrogens in women at risk for breast cancer by decreasing fat levels and increasing lean tissue. Estradiol is about 7% lower in women who exercise than those who don’t.
- Exercise that led to weight loss reduced hormones associated with risk of disease. [That said, you are not a calories in, calories out equation. That’s hard to keep in mind in light of the social media memes that would have you believing the erroneous and tired “eat less, exercise more” mantra. It’s been disproven again and again, yet it persists.]
- Physically active postmenopausal women have a reduced risk of breast cancer compared to inactive postmenopausal women.
There are three types of estrogen to be familiar with:
Estradiol – most common in non-pregnant women
Estrone – post menopause
Estriol – major role in pregnancy
The role of estrogen in weight and fat
You need estrogen for weight loss. It helps regulate fat metabolism. When you’ve got adequate estrogen in cells there’s less chance for fat to move in. So let’s look at this!
Low Estrogen Levels & Exercise
Reducing the volume of exercise can help increase low estrogen levels, whereas extreme exercise can cause a decrease in estrogen. You’ve got to find your Goldilocks.
It’s important to consider your individual need and response to exercise. Yet, if you have low estrogen levels even if you love exercise, it’s wise to listen to the fact your body is telling you, “Not right now.”
If you can’t relax or enjoy yourself if you don’t exercise, if it gets in the way of you doing other things in your life or you do it at the expense of your health then exercise has become something other than a healthy part of life.
For example, Jamie was extremely obsessed with food and exercise for much of her life. After a diagnosis of low bone density in her late 30’s she was under treatment yet still running miles though told not to due to risk of fracture.
Overtraining is linked to low estrogen levels that contribute to bone loss. Overtraining and under recovery both are to blame. That is, you may be doing too much too soon for your body and or you can be getting too little sleep, rest, and nutrition to support your workouts. That’s as common among weight loss seekers as it is athletes.
Assess Your Estrogen Levels
Begin with the signs and symptoms your body is sending you. If you haven’t done “labs”you can still learn much from your body. If you have done labs, you still want that intel from your body combined with labs.
- Gaining belly fat
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Hair loss
- Low libido
- Saggy, crepe skin
You may have low estrogen levels if you respond “yes” to several of those.
- Fat in hips and thighs
- Weight gain
- Water retention
- “PMS” even if you’re not cycling
You may have high estrogen levels if you respond “yes” to several of those.
For low estrogen levels:
- Reduce exercise volume (or keep it low if you’re starting: do start!)
- Avoid high-risk exercise (higher impact, unfamiliar exercise, overtraining)
- Avoid exercise-induced low weight (thin or frail runners or long distance athletes at greater risk of fracture)
- Increase recovery strategies between exercise sesions
For high or “estrogen dominance”:
- Short high intensity interval training sessions
- Short weight training sessions (with adequate intensity/to fatigue)
- Short walks (in nature)
- Include activities of low-to-moderate intensity that you love
- Shift to emphasis on strength vs. cardio
“High estrogen” often seems a little confounding when you’re in menopause. You’re losing estrogen and it’s why you’re in menopause, after all! So what’s up with that?
It’s the relationship between your hormones that give way to the term “hormone balance.”
So, if you liken it to cholesterol, which we readily accept as both numbers and most importantly the ratio of good: total cholesterol. It’s about that relationship, even if your total number may be a little higher than ideal. So it is with hormones.
If your estrogen and progesterone levels aren’t in balance with each other, typically it’s due to high cortisol. Cortisol blocks progesterone. That contributes to more angst, less calm, and mood swings. But you’re also more likely to deposit fat in your belly when estrogen is “low” (compared to progesterone”) and cortisol is high.
Like when you have aging parents, kids still at home or in college, career or relationship changes happening. And you, possibly are a woman who does too much. For everyone else. Or ruminates about doing too much for everyone else. And you exercise to negate stress. Too much. Or ruminate about exercising and don’t. At all.
Move Right for You Right Now
Make the move to move right. Enough, but not too much. Not for your friend, your spouse, or younger you. The right exercise at the right time supports your hormone balance naturally. Whether you choose to do hormone supplementation or you don’t, your exercise and other lifestyle habits optimize or sabotage your hormone balance.
If you’ve “got this,” and you’re feeling great in the second half congrats!
And if you’d like support, there are some ways I can help. Grab my “checklist of successful Flipping 50 habits” and see how you’re doing.
And if you’re really serious about getting long lasting support one of these is the perfect start:
- The 28-Day Kickstart(live group coaching with me plus one private call)
- The After 50 Fitness Formula for Women (Do it Yourself course all online – especially if you’re concerned about bone density or adrenal fatigue- the bonuses inside this course will appeal)