Exercise has been proven to have an impact on estrogen levels in women, but the type and level of impact varies from woman to woman. Depending on your fitness level, age and stage in life, your exercise routine may or may not impact your estrogen levels.
It is no secret that exercise can help lower fat levels in your body. What you may not know is that fat levels and estrogen are related. Women with extremely low body fat may have problems producing sufficient amounts of estrogen. This is most common in extreme cases, such as gymnasts, other athletes and models. Regular workouts for the nonathlete are less likely to negatively impact estrogen production and can actually aid estrogen levels. If you are overweight, you may be producing too much estrogen, and a regular exercise regime may help bring your levels down.
Prolonged exposure of breast tissue to estrogen can possibly increase risk of breast cancer. Factors that prolong exposure are late pregnancy or not becoming pregnant, early menstruation and late menopause. Exercise, however, has proven to lower estrogen levels, therefore lowering the amount of exposure of breast tissue. Studies by Leslie Bernstein, Ph.D., and colleagues at the University of Southern California's Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center have shown that exercise in adolescence is most influential in premenopausal women for lowered breast cancer risk. However, in postmenopausal women, it was discovered that long-term activity that correlates with recent activity also has an influence on lowering breast cancer risk. Exercise as a tool to lower estrogen levels has been found to be most beneficial for premenopausal women who have a normal or low weight.
In extreme cases, where young women are exercising at a level that causes too little estrogen to the point of interfering with regular menstrual cycles, exercise can negatively affect fertility. Likewise, obesity can cause an increased production of estrogen, affecting ovulation and menstruation, which in turn can cause infertility. If you are within 10 to 15 percent over- or underweight, this may adversely impact your fertility. Exercise in regulated amounts can help keep your body weight at a healthy level for fertility. Consult your doctor to correctly assess your weight and its potential impact on your estrogen production and fertility.
Post-menopause exercise has proven to produce some of the benefits of estrogen without hormone replacement therapy, HRT, which can have adverse side effects. Exercise has also been shown to positively affect sleep, risk of osteoporosis and hot flashes, all issues that can plague postmenopausal women. The reduction of estrogen in postmenopausal women causes an accumulation of fat, which can be counteracted by exercise as well. If you are considering or are already taking HRT but are interested in a possibly safer, healthier solution, consult your doctor about implementing a regular exercise routine.
Although exercise can have an impact on your estrogen production, it is not the only factor that may do so. Other hormones, such as progesterone, affect estrogen. Progesterone counters estrogen. Estrogen promotes tissue growth, preparing the uterine lining for fertilization. If fertilization does not occur, a rise in progesterone levels causes this tissue to be sloughed off in through menstruation. These hormones work in a delicate balance, so if your progesterone levels are abnormal, it will cause your estrogen levels to be changed as well. Additionally, other health issues, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, can be the cause of irregular estrogen production. Early menopause also affects estrogen production. To learn whether estrogen levels are a concern for you, consult your doctor.
Is This an Emergency?
- National Cancer Institute: Breast Cancer Prevention
- Getting Pregnant: Getting Pregnant and Improving Fertility: Exercise
- "Current Oncology Reports"; Exercise and Breast Cancer Prevention; Leslie Bernstein, Ph.D.; 2009.
- Arthritis Today: After Menopause, Try Exercise Instead of Estrogen
- Science Daily: Estrogen and Exercise Promote Leanness in Similar Ways
- Women to Women: Menopause & Perimenopause