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Could Your Office Job Be Lowering Your Testosterone?

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Gone are the days of the hunt. The chase between you and your prey – you didn’t catch a meal, you didn’t eat. Times were hard.

It meant you had to be fast, strong and agile to succeed. Those that weren’t, starved to death – it was as simple as that.

It’s far removed from today’s man though. By and large he’s a comfortable, well-fed and inactive shadow of his former hunter-gatherer self.

Instead, the modern man spends his time in an air-conditioned room, talking with people from across the world with the click of a button. He wants something to eat? Another click of a button and food magically arrives. Easy.

But is this comfortable life for the better? Has the office environment affected testosterone levels?

In this article we take a look at the consequences of office life on the modern man.


The Low T Problem

When your testosterone is at an optimal level you look and feel great. Your muscular frame will perform well – you’ll be strong and resistant to fatigue. Not only that, but you’ll perform better in the bedroom and your libido will skyrocket.

The problem is though that more and more men are suffering from lower than normal testosterone, or low T.

As a condition where testosterone levels fall below 300 ng.dL, low T now affects as many as 1 in 4 American men. And that number’s increasing too.

What does this mean for you?

You’ll start to put on belly fat, you’ll lose the muscle you’ve worked hard for and your libido will plummet. You’ll feel tired and fatigued and your health will suffer too.

There’s a lot of value to keeping your testosterone levels high.


Overworked and Not Enough Rest

You work hard to provide for yourself and your family – a little too hard perhaps. As many as 40% of US and a third of UK workers didn’t take their paid holidays last year. Instead they opted to get their heads down and get their hours done.

As a relentlessly hard working nation, US citizens are becoming increasingly tired, lethargic and overworked. The inactive nature of office jobs means we don’t get the thrill of the chase any more. Instead you get to enjoy your ergonomic chair, your ultra-resolution monitor and your water cooler over in the corner of your well-designed office booth.

The downside is you spend most of your time sat in the same position, with little opportunity to move around. It’s the exact opposite of the man of old.

So could all of this hard (but inactive) work start to have a negative effect your T levels? Could a lack of good work to rest balance be causing you long-term illness?

Let’s take a look.



Office Jobs and Testosterone – Is There a Link?

Go back 50 or so years and half of American had jobs that were physically active. Nowadays it’s more like 20% [1]. Why? Because sedentary jobs such as office work have become more popular.

Could your job role really be to blame for your ever-plummeting testosterone levels? In short, yes. Or at the very least, it’ll contribute.

Shift Work – Say Goodnight to Testosterone

Many office workers choose to work late – sometimes even overnight – in an attempt to hack through hundreds of emails, or to get that report in on time. What’s the problem with that?

Well our bodies are conditioned to follow regular sleep-wake cycles. This means that we have a circadian rhythm (a kind of internal biological clock) that regulates our hormones based on the time of day.

There are currently up to 33% of the US workforce that work ‘unsociable hours’. Out of these, 7% work permanent nights or shits that rotate from days to nights. And this can cause massive upset to your biological rhythms.

How does that affect you?

Firstly, there are a number of studies that show that both shift and night work can have a negative effect on your hormones. On top of that it can affect your mood, health and general well-being too.

One study found that when blood tests were taken in night workers between midnight and 8:00 am, T concentrations were much lower than baseline measurements [2]. Peaks and troughs of serum testosterone were erratic too, and were thought to be caused by the fast-rotating nature of shit work.

What is the biggest problem with shift work?

A lack of consistent sleep.

When optimized, testosterone levels peak during deep slumber – with at least 3 hours needed to start to see levels increase. Any less than that and you’re asking for trouble.

In the US, the average nocturnal sleep time is 6.9 hours, with more than 20% of adults sleeping less than 6.5 hours per night. That’s far less than the recommended 8 hours per night.

There are a number of sleep-related disruptions that have been found to blunt T levels. These include poor sleep quality, quantity, sleep apnea and disordered breathing [3].



Office Jobs Are Stressful

Chances are that your job role isn’t all lunch time walks in the park, leisurely meetings and fun office nights out. It’s a tough job with lots of pressure.

You have regular deadlines to meet – start to fall behind and the workload will mount up quickly. Take a day or two off sick and you just know you’ll be returning to your inbox full of emails.

Let’s be right – office work is stressful!

Work-related stress accounted for over 45% of all work days lost to illness in 2016. It’s an ever-growing problem – particularly in repetitive jobs such as office work.

And the side effect of stress on hormones?

You guessed it – low T.

Cortisol and testosterone

In times of excess stress, your adrenal glands begin to pump out high levels of cortisol, the body’s ‘stress hormone’.

This catabolic hormone can chew away at muscle tissue and is a major contributing factor in increased belly fat. It can blunt your immune system and ramp up your risk of metabolic and cardiovascular diseases too[4].

Research on NASA office workers found that their cortisol levels didn’t fall like they should in the afternoon – instead they stayed elevated [5]. More recent research has shown that office workers have higher levels of cortisol when they wake up, as well as throughout the day [6].



Your Office Job Could Be Making You Fat

A lack of physical activity throughout the day, coupled with at-your-desk snacking can easily cause you to pile the pounds on.

A recent study in PLoS ONE [1] found that daily occupation-related energy expenditure has decreased by more than 100 calories. This reduction (alongside poorer eating patterns) accounts for a significant portion of the increase in obesity in the US.

How does being overweight cause low T?

A review study presented at the 94th annual Endocrine Society conference in 2012 [7] suggested that being overweight is the biggest modifiable risk factor for low T.

The effects of low activity levels and constant snacking can be made even worse with an increase in cortisol levels. And this increase is associated with more fat around your middle and chest. What’s referred to as belly fat and man boobs. 

Being overweight can cause an increase in production of the female hormone estrogen. It does this by elevating how much of your testosterone is converted to estrogen within your fat cells via a process called aromatization. On top of that, being overweight will also suppress how much testosterone is produced by your testes.

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References

  1. Church, TS et al. Trends over 5 Decades in U.S. Occupation-Related Physical Activity and Their Associations with Obesity. PLoS ONE. 2011; 6(5): e19657
  2. Touitou, Y et al. Effect of shift work on the night-time secretory patterns of melatonin, prolactin, cortisol and testosterone. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1990; 60(4): 288-92
  3. Wittert,G et al. The relationship between sleep disorders and testosterone in men. Asian J Androl. 2014; 16(2): 262–265
  4. Rosmund, R et al. Stress-Related Cortisol Secretion in Men: Relationships with Abdominal Obesity and Endocrine, Metabolic and Hemodynamic Abnormalities. J Clin Endoc Metab. 1998; 83(6): 1853-1859
  5. Caplan, RD et al. White collar work load and cortisol: Disruption of a circadian rhythm by job stress? J Psychosom Res. 1979; 23(3): 181-192
  6. Thayer, JF et al. Effects of the Physical Work Environment on Physiological Measures of Stress. Eur J Cardiovasc Prev Rehabil. 2010; 17(4): 431–439
  7. Dwyer, AA et al. Lifestyle Modification Can Reverse Hypogonadism in Men with Impaired Glucose Tolerance in the Diabetes Prevention Program. Paper presented at: The Endocrine Society’s 94th Annual Meeting. 2012; June 23-26; Houston, TX.


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