A man lifting a dumbbell while standing near a wall. Learn if working out increases testosterone in this article.

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How Exercise Impacts Testosterone Levels, According to an Endocrinologist

Working out can help boost T levels in men, but not all types of exercise are equally effective.

By Kathleen FeltonJune 25, 2024


You probably know that testosterone plays a starring role in everything from libido to sperm production to muscle building. And you may have also heard that levels of this hormone decline with age in people assigned male at birth, with an average dip of about 1 percent every year after age 40, according to Mayo Clinic.

This decline is natural, but certain lifestyle habits can help keep testosterone levels in as healthy a range as possible as you age—and working out is one way to give yourself a boost.

“If you’re trying to maintain your testosterone levels, being fit and exercising is one of the things that you can control,” says Kunal K. Shah, MD, an endocrinologist and assistant professor in the division of endocrinology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey.

Read on for more about how working out increases testosterone, as well as the types of workouts that deliver the biggest benefits for T levels.

Does Working Out Increase Testosterone?

First, a quick note about testosterone and biological sex: Both men and women have testosterone, which is produced in the testicles and ovaries. And exercise can impact testosterone levels for both sexes, though in slightly different ways. But because it’s the major male sex hormone, most studies on exercise and testosterone are focused on men. 

With that in mind, there’s solid research showing that working out does increase testosterone levels for people assigned male at birth. In one 2012 study, for example, researchers noted higher testosterone levels in physically active men compared to those who were sedentary. And a more recent study found exercise to be more impactful than calorie restriction when it came to increasing testosterone levels in men who were obese.

As for how much testosterone you gain from each workout? It’s a little hard to quantify, Dr. Shah says, since so many factors are involved—for example, how much sleep you got the night before, what type of exercise you’re doing (more on this below), and how long you work out for.

That said, someone who rarely exercises would experience a slightly higher percentage of increased testosterone after a workout, but that’s because they’re starting from a lower point, Dr. Shah explains. Age matters, too: “As you become older, the boost from the testosterone you get wanes,” he says.

Again, we have less research on how exercise affects testosterone levels in women, but some studies have shown that certain types of exercise slightly raise T levels while others cause them to dip a bit (more on this below). Unfortunately, there are even fewer studies on trans athletes and testosterone, so there’s still a lot experts don’t know about how exercise impacts people receiving gender-affirming hormone therapy (GAHT).

Is More Testosterone a Good Thing? 

“Testosterone gets a bad rap,” Dr. Shah admits. People often associate high T levels with negative behaviors like aggression or violence, as well as misuse of synthetic testosterone in steroids. But this is a really important hormone for men: Not only is testosterone crucial for sperm production and libido, it also supports bone density, muscle mass, and red blood cell levels. In a 2018 study of men in their 70s, testosterone was found to help with mood, sexual well-being, and bone strength.

All that to say: Keeping T levels in a healthy range is beneficial, especially as you get older and start to experience a natural dip. “Maintaining testosterone and being fit in general is probably a really good thing,” Dr. Shah says.

Which Exercises Affect Testosterone Levels the Most?

There are plenty of excellent reasons to get your heart pumping with aerobic exercises like running, indoor cycling, and swimming—cardio benefits your mood, cardiovascular health, and maybe even immune system, after all. But if you’re a cardio devotee who’s hoping to increase testosterone levels, you’ll also want to add resistance training to the mix: Research suggests that aerobic exercise doesn’t have the same positive effect on testosterone as the workouts below.

Resistance Training

Strength training, weight lifting, and other resistance-type workouts are ideal for increasing testosterone. Multiple studies have identified links between resistance workouts and changes in serum testosterone concentrations, a 2020 review noted. Both men and women may experience a T boost after resistance workouts, though some older research suggests this increase is much smaller for women.

Lifting heavy weights and working your large muscle groups—such as with squats or back rows—may be especially helpful to give T levels a boost, adds Columbia Health. (The Peloton App offers tons of strength training classes that guide you through these movements.) Just make sure you stay hydrated and give yourself enough time to recover—at least a day or two—before working the same muscles again.

HIIT (for Men)

Research has also found that high-intensity interval training (or HIIT, for short) boosts T levels. In a 2012 study, researchers found HIIT to be more effective at increasing the hormone in men than running alone. This just applies to those assigned male at birth, though: There’s some evidence to suggest that HIIT workouts actually have the opposite effect on testosterone levels for women.

How Long Do T Levels Stay Elevated After a Workout?

The post-workout testosterone boost is real, but unfortunately, not super long-lasting. “A lot of people think exercise can maintain elevated testosterone levels for a long period of time, which is not necessarily true,” Dr. Shah says. In fact, research shows testosterone spikes for only about 15 minutes to an hour after you finish a workout, with younger men seeing a greater boost. 

But while the testosterone jump after any one workout might be short-lived, exercising regularly helps you sustain overall higher levels over time. “Continuously working out may potentially stave off low T,” Dr. Shah says, especially if you focus on resistance and HIIT workouts.

Other Factors That Affect Testosterone Levels

Exercise is an important tool to maintain healthy testosterone, but it’s not the only one. Your levels can fluctuate throughout the course of the day or week depending on lots of factors, such as:

  • When you work out: Testosterone levels are highest in the morning, so your post-workout boost may be even greater after an AM workout.

  • How well you’ve slept: Lack of sleep may actually reduce testosterone, Dr. Shah says. Some research suggests that although levels of the hormone rise after a few hours of shut-eye, they decrease if you’ve been awake for too long.

  • What you’re eating: Research has been mixed on which kinds of foods are more or less likely to support testosterone production, but following a generally healthy diet (lots of veggies, protein, whole grains, and healthy fats) and not drinking too much alcohol will help you maintain a healthy weight. That’s important to note if you’re trying to maintain testosterone levels, as obesity has also been linked to lower T levels.

  • How old you are: A normal testosterone range for men 18 and older is anywhere between 193 and 824 nanograms per deciliter of blood, but levels tend to gradually (and naturally!) decrease with age. Older adults assigned male at birth are also more likely to have low testosterone when the testicles don’t produce enough of the hormone. This can lead to symptoms like a lower sex drive, depressed mood, and decreased muscle mass.

And remember, if you’re concerned about your T levels, it’s always a good idea to check in with your doctor. They can answer any questions you have and help you figure out the best path forward.

The Takeaway

Exercising is one of the best ways to keep testosterone in a healthy range, but you need to work out consistently to see real, ongoing benefits. Anaerobic exercises have a clear edge over cardio when it comes to boosting testosterone levelsso make sure to add a few HIIT or strength-training workouts to your weekly lineup. Just don’t rely on exercise alone to keep T up—getting enough sleep and eating well are also important when it comes to testosterone production, not to mention crucial to your overall well-being.

This content is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute individualized advice. It is not intended to replace professional medical evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician for questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. If you are having a medical emergency, call your physician or 911 immediately.


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