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TestoFuel Blog : Make Gains & Pack on the Muscle

Boost Testosterone with Exercise

There are many factors that influence testosterone production, in this series we are looking at diet, exercise, stress management, sleep, and the avoidance of hidden testosterone killers. But of all the factors, the most well-known is exercise. Not only does exercise have a huge impact on testosterone production, but it can help you to lose weight, boost your mood, and reduce your risk of certain illnesses and diseases.

This article will explain how exercise can affect testosterone, and then take a look at a five step process for incorporating exercise into your lifestyle to ultimately boost your testosterone production.

How Exercise Can Affect Testosterone

Testosterone is a sex hormone that is produced in Leydig cells, these cells can be found in the testes of men and the ovaries in women. The cells help to convert cholesterol into testosterone. This process is incredibly useful, allowing men to build muscle, maintain healthy bone density, think clearer, produce offspring, and recover from exercise.

But the process is also quite fragile. It requires your body to be in good health. Stress, insomnia, depression, fatigue, and excess body fat can all affect testosterone production.

What is so frustrating for many men, is how one negative aspect of their life (stress, for example) can affect the other areas which can all snowball. For example, a stressful job can lead to chronic bad sleep (insomnia) which can cause an increase in body fat, which can affect mood. All of these factors can affect testosterone.

Luckily, fixing one area can also snowball, but in a positive way. Exercise is one of the easiest changes you can make. Exercise can help you:

  • Reduce body fat
  • Increase muscle mass
  • Release testosterone and growth hormone
  • Help to improve mood and reduce stress
  • Outdoor exercise can increase vitamin D production
  • Help you sleep better

Each one of these benefits can improve testosterone production. Combine exercise with the other articles in this series (sleep, diet, stress etc) and you can see even better testosterone gains over time.

Exercise Creates Significant Fat Loss

Excess energy (calories) are stored in your body as fat. This has numerous survival benefits, but in the modern world, where food is rarely scarce, it leads to fat accumulation and eventually obesity. One downside of stored body fat is that it increases the production of an enzyme called aromatase.

The function of aromatase is to convert testosterone into estrogen. This means that men with high levels of body fat are losing testosterone and seeing increases in estrogen. This increased estrogen has many unpleasant side effects. One of the most well-known is the increase in breast tissue development.

Lots of stored body fat can also affect your sleep, mood, and stress levels, leading to increased cortisol which can affect testosterone production.

With excess body fat causing low testosterone levels and high estrogen levels, it makes sense that losing body fat would lead to the restoration of optimal testosterone production and a drop in estrogen.

Exercise is incredibly effective at burning fat, particularly when combined with a calorie controlled diet. Studies have shown that exercise can lead to modest weight loss on its own [1], but when combined with diet it provides significant results.

It’s not just scheduled exercise though, non-exercise activities such as walking can produce superb fat loss results [2]. Many people who have never exercised before often report surprising fat loss results when they start to increase their step count.

  • Exercise and non-exercise activity can help you to burn more fat, which can then lead to increases in testosterone and a reduction in estrogen.

Exercise Increases Muscle Mass

Having more muscle mass does not automatically cause testosterone production to rise. Though performing the exercises that lead to increased muscle mass can trigger spikes of testosterone (see section below).

No, the increase in muscle mass is beneficial because it can raise your metabolism and contribute to fat loss. Muscle tissue requires more energy than fat tissue. So, performing exercises that increase muscle mass will raise your resting metabolism, leading to you burning more calories throughout the day. Combine this with diet and you will see increased fat loss which as we know can help to boost testosterone production.

  • Exercise increases muscle mass which will raise your metabolism, making fat loss easier. This can lead to increased testosterone in the long term.

Exercise Stimulates Hormone Release

There is a lot of evidence that exercise, strength training in particular, can lead to a temporary spike in growth hormone and testosterone [3]. This boost can last for around 15 minutes, but this can vary depending on your training experience, current testosterone levels, and whether you train during the day or late at night.

The effects are temporary, but they may still provide benefits, particularly when it comes to muscle protein synthesis (the process of building and repairing muscle tissue). These temporary effects can also add up if you train regularly for a long time.

Another common response to exercise is a feeling of euphoria and a reduction in stress. This has been attributed to the peptide hormones known as endorphins. However, this may actually be due to the release of endocannabinoids (compounds produced in the body that are similar to cannabinoids found in cannabis) [4].

Either way, the release of either endorphins or endocannabinoids can lead to improved mood, reduced cortisol, and reduced stress [5]. This can help to improve sleep quality and protect testosterone production.

  • Exercise can lead to an immediate release of testosterone and other hormones that can reduce stress and anxiety, helping with long term testosterone production.

Exercise Can Lead to Stress Reduction

As we mentioned in the last section, when you exercise your body releases chemicals/hormones that can lead to euphoria and a reduction in depressive symptoms. But this is not just a temporary measure. Regular exercise has been found to increase emotional resilience in healthy adults [6]. In other words, by exercising you are able to handle stressful situations better.

Science isn’t sure how exercise helps you to improve your response to stress, there are theories about hormone responses, or according to the American College of Sports Medicine it could be that:

“Exercise affects neurotransmitters in the brain such as dopamine and serotonin that affect mood and behaviour” [7]

Whatever the cause, there is a lot of evidence that regular exercise can improve your mood and reduce the effects of stress on your body. It can also help you to sleep better. All of these things are associated with increased testosterone production.

  • Regular exercise can reduce the effect that stress has on the body, protecting testosterone production and helping you to boost your testosterone in the long term.

Spending time Outdoors

One unexpected benefit of exercising outdoors is an increase in testosterone production. This comes from the sunlight that reaches your skin, helping to convert 7-dehydrocholesterol into vitamin D [8]. As we know from our article on how diet affects testosterone, vitamin D deficiencies are heavily associated with low testosterone, and increasing vitamin D intake can help to rectify the situation.

Spending time outdoors can also help to reduce stress, improve mood, and help you sleep better. All of which can lead to increased testosterone production.

  • Exercising outdoors can help to synthesise vitamin D which can increase testosterone production. Spending time in nature can also reduce stress and help to protect testosterone levels.

Improved Sleep

Exercise can help sleep in a number of ways. It can improve quality and reduce sleep onset latency (how long it takes you to fall asleep) and reduce the likelihood of insomnia [9]. It can also help to reduce stress, which as we have already discussed, can lead to sleep issues. Exercise can also help to lower body fat, which has been associated with bad sleep.

Improving your sleep quality and duration has a powerful effect on testosterone levels, with studies showing much higher testosterone in men who had a good night’s sleep compared to men who had suffered through a bad night.

  • Exercising can help to improve your sleep quality and duration, which can in turn help to raise testosterone levels.

Five Steps to Using Exercise to Improve Testosterone

Now that we know how exercise can improve testosterone, let’s take a look at five ways to use exercise correctly for this purpose. This section will look at the benefits of walking, lifting weights, HIIT, and exercises such as yoga and pilates. Demonstrating the wide variety of exercises that you can utilise.

Step #1 NEAT

So, what is NEAT? And how can it affect your testosterone levels? NEAT refers to non-exercise activity thermogenesis, and while it does not directly raise testosterone, it is one of the most effective indirect methods for raising testosterone around.

Your metabolism is a measure of all the calories your body burns each day. It is made up of the following:

  • Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) 70% – Calories you burn while resting
  • Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) 10% – Calories burned eating, digesting, and excreting food
  • Physical Activity (PA) 20% – Calories burned moving

Physical activity covers standard exercise (gym, exercise classes, exercise bike, swimming) known as exercise-activity thermogenesis, or EAT. But it also covers NEAT. This is a measure of all the activities that burn calories which are not classed as exercise. Walking, brushing your teeth, washing the car, vacuuming the house, taking the stairs, even typing out a text.

Many of these activities burn fewer than 10 calories, but NEAT measures everything, and when you accumulate them all you can end up with it accounting for up to 20% of your total daily calories burned. If you have a metabolism of 3,000 then that’s 600 calories!

It is thanks to NEAT that some people can be very lean without ever stepping foot in a gym. It can also be due to NEAT that some can exercise three times per week yet still remain overweight.

One of the biggest causes of obesity is low NEAT, with the number of calories being burned varying by as much as 2,000 calories between the most active and least active people. Studies have found that low levels of NEAT are associated with increased risk of obesity [10].

Much of NEAT is performed subconsciously. If you burn 15 calories fidgeting while seated at your desk you probably didn’t plan to do that. Burning 200 calories while mowing the lawn and removing weeds from the garden may have been planned, but it is unlikely that you did this for fat burning reasons.

Because of this, it can be very easy for some people to burn hundreds of calories per day without even realising it. This can be tricky for people who are naturally less inclined to move around a lot.

In other words, if you are currently overweight and want to burn more calories, it is difficult to increase NEAT. Luckily, there is a solution …


Increasing your step count is the most effective way to consciously increase your NEAT. You don’t need to aim for 10,000 steps per day but adding an extra 3,000 steps to your routine could help you to burn an additional 150 calories per day.

It doesn’t have to be planned walks either, making decisions to walk rather than drive, or take the stairs rather than the lift can help you to boost that step count, and burn more calories.

Increased NEAT will help with creating a calorie deficit, which will allow you to burn more fat, and ultimately increase testosterone production.

  • Increase your NEAT by walking more each day, performing more household tasks, and making conscious decisions to move more where possible.

Step #2 Cardio

There’s a rumour going around the fitness community that cardio can actually lower your testosterone levels, and that you should therefore avoid it. There is some truth to this, too much cardio could lead to low testosterone. However, this is true of any exercise. Lift too many weights without adequate rest and your testosterone levels will drop.

Cardio, when programmed properly, can help you to raise your testosterone levels. While resistance training is often seen as the best form of training (see step #3), cardio is still the most effective way to burn calories and lose weight.

As we have already established, reducing your body fat levels can help to reduce estrogen levels and raise testosterone. You just need to ensure that you aren’t overtraining. Create a sensible training program, focus heavily on proper nutrition and sleep during your recovery days, and try to avoid stress (this can lead to elevated cortisol, which can be exacerbated by overtraining).

Outdoor cardio can also help to expose you to sunlight (increased vitamin D) and help to reduce stress and anxiety, which can help to protect testosterone levels.

  • Keep your cardio to under 60 minutes to prevent cortisol build up. Train 3-4 times per week max. This will allow you to burn fat and increase testosterone levels.

Step #3 Resistance Training

Lifting heavy weights is often seen as the most testosterone-fuelled activity you can do, other than perhaps walking in to a UFC cage. The relationship between resistance training and increased testosterone production is well established.

A 2012 study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that resistance training led to long term increases in testosterone production and improved fertility [11].

Resistance training can also help to lower body fat, improve your mood, and improve sleep quality. All contributing to healthy testosterone production. But what is resistance training? It can involve any of the following:

  • Dumbbell and barbell exercises
  • Kettlebells
  • Resistance machines (leg press, chest press, lat pulldown)
  • Bodyweight exercises (push ups, pull ups, burpees)

As with cardio, make sure that your resistance training workouts are kept to under 60 minutes in length to prevent cortisol from affecting your results. For best fat burning effects, a combination of resistance training and cardio is optimal.

Training the whole body will provide greater testosterone benefits than performing split training (leg day, chest day, arm day etc).

  • Perform 3-4 full-body resistance training sessions per week for optimal results. Ensure that you have enough rest between workouts. Add cardio for greater fat burning results.

Step #4 High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

In 2017 a study looked into the effects of high intensity interval training (HIIT) on men’s health. It found that six weeks of HIIT sessions led to statistically significant increases in testosterone levels [12]. HIIT is also incredibly effective for fat loss, making it an excellent all-around workout for men.

However, there is a problem. HIIT requires you to already be physically fit. The vast majority of people do not have the fitness to perform HIIT at the intensity required. Meaning that you may need to spend a few weeks building up your fitness.

  • If you have been training for a long time and have good fitness levels then adding HIIT to your training program is a no-brainer. However, if you are just starting out, you’d do better to follow a resistance training program with some normal cardio added in.

Step #5 Yoga and Pilates

These final two exercises are probably not often considered testosterone boosters, and it is unlikely that your T levels will be high after finishing a yoga workout. However, as we have discussed before, many of the benefits of exercise are mental.

Yoga and pilates can help to reduce stress and anxiety, improve your mood, and help you to sleep better afterwards. A yoga session before bed (heavy on meditation) could actually help you drift off to sleep faster. This has a knock-on effect on testosterone levels and will do wonders for your mental health.

  • Add in a yoga or pilates session during your recovery days. Not only will this help to speed up recovery (by increasing blood flow to tired muscles) but it can help to lower stress and protect testosterone production.

Final Thoughts on Exercise and Testosterone

By now you should have a good idea of how exercise can help to raise testosterone levels both directly and indirectly. This article may also have given you a better appreciation of how all of the different factors (diet, sleep, stress management, exercise) complement each other.

Hopefully, you now have a good plan of attack, whether it involves four days of resistance training or just planning on walking in your local park more often. Whatever you decide, just ensure that you are getting adequate rest, and that you are also focusing on those other factors.