"Hormones are chemical substances that act like messenger molecules in the body. After being made in one part of the body, they travel to other parts of the body where they help control how cells and organs do their work. For example, insulin is a hormone that's made by the beta cells in the pancreas. When it's released into the blood, insulin helps regulate how the cells of the body use glucose (a type of sugar) for energy." - KidsHealth.org We tend to think of hormonal issues as an adult problem, but as many parents of tweens and teens will tell you...they start their influence at a fairly young age. Hormonal control and regulation talk has become common place in our society as we search to maintain our energy, mood, libido, and vibrancy into later stages of life. What is fascinating is that there is a growing trend, even amidst our current scientific "progress", for people to begin seeking hormonal help at a younger age. Blame it on stress, fast paced lifestyle, phthalates in our plastics and shampoos, the added soy in our food supply, and putting off child bearing into later years, and there's a perfect cocktail for our need to help our hormones. Tim Ferris in The Four Hour Body states that "The sperm counts of men in the US and 20 other industrialized countries have been falling since 1942 at a rate of roughly 1% per year in healthy males." Walk into any infertility clinic in the US and you will shocked by the volume of people who need hormonal assistance to have children naturally. There are so many reasons why they can be thrown off, it can be infuriating to chase down the cause.
While hormone replacement therapy may be the ultimate solution for some, the more subtle solution is to get back to what nature intended to help us feel great. More sleep, whole foods in moderation, and stress-reducing exercise. In a comparison of exercisers and non-exercisers, showed that exercisers' moods were significantly more positive than sedentary women's moods, regardless of menopausal state. Exercising women also scored lower on somatic symptoms and memory-concentration difficulties. (Health Psychology, Vol 16(3), May 1997, 203-208). Physical activity also seems to minimize weight gain and changes in body composition and fat distribution experienced at midlife and might attenuate the rapid bone density loss that occurs when perimenopausal women engage in moderate physical activity an average of 30 minutes a day.
In general, our hormones decline as we age. They can become more off balance when we don't take care of our health. There is still research needed to define what specific types of exercise is best for treating hormonal fluctuation, but we know that Testosterone can be boosted with strength training and that over-exercising can actually reduce Estrogen levels. We suggest strength training 2 days a week, doing yoga or Tai Chi 2 days a week, 1 day of high intensity intervals and 1 day of hiking or biking at a moderate level to maintain a healthy balance of effort and consistency for your hormonal health. Of course, your effort level will depend on what you are currently used to doing for training, so see your physician and fitness coach for more info!