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Running and Testosterone: Does Running Increase Testosterone? Or Lower It Instead?

An overhead image of marathon runners

Some people are just addicted to the endorphin kick that sets in after completing a good run. Lacing up your sneakers and getting in an aerobic workout is indeed a good exercise that burns calories and improves cardiovascular endurance. From a testosterone standpoint, though, running may actually be counter-intuitive. Let’s continue to look at the relationship between running and testosterone.

Running Is Bad for Testosterone

If you regularly run or perform any other form of low impact aerobic activity, then you could be compromising your T levels without even knowing it. Don’t worry, you don’t need to – nor should you – give up your tri-weekly 20-minute sessions on the track or StairMaster. You just likely need to adjust the training so that the exercise works for, and not against you. It’s not running in general that’s the problem. In fact, cardio training is very beneficial. It boosts your immune system and forces your heart to work harder, thus enabling it to deliver more blood and oxygen. Plus, it also increases stamina, which is an essential component for just about any athlete.

Long-distance endurance training has a negative effect on testosterone levels.

According to a University of British Columbia study, male runners who ran more than 40 miles per week had noticeably lower T levels compared to those who train in short-distance running.  This is probably due to endurance athletes chronically elevated cortisol levels.  If this is you, you definitely need to prevent against elevated cortisol with additional rest, nutrition or supplemental support.

An image of marathoners running toward a camera

In another study done at Universidade Federal de Sao Paulo in Brazil, researchers examined the serum levels of 20 men before and after completing a 26.2 mile (the length of a marathon) run.

After finishing the run, the men’s testosterone levels were about 50 percent lower than baseline levels taken the day before. In addition, cortisol levels also more than doubled and remained higher than baseline a day after the race. Researchers also noted that subjects had higher levels of the enzymes lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) and creatine kinase (CK), both of which are associated with muscle tissue damage and breakdown. LDH and CK levels were higher than average immediately after the race and actually increased even more the day after.

All of the studies begin to make sense when you look at the physique of marathon runners. While many of them are thin, they often appear to have sunken faces and a skinny-fat type of body. Compare this to short-distance sprinters whose physiques bear a stronger resemblance to the stereotypical athlete. Not convinced? Take a look then at this photo or this one that compares the physique of Olympic sprinters verses a marathoner. This isn’t to say you should never run in a marathon. By all means, partake in one so you can cross it off your bucket list. Just don’t make it into an annual or biannual type of thing.

An image of an asian man running

Marathon Running Is Not Just a Threat to Your Manhood

Long-distance running affects your health in other ways besides depleting your testosterone levels. Pounding the pavement too hard and too often is also bad for your heart. A study presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress showed that while regular aerobic training can reduce the risk of heart disease by a factor of two to three, consistent long distance training actually increases the risk seven-fold.

Long-distance running has been proven to be bad for cardiovascular health.

There is also another study that revealed even more grim news for long-distance athletes. This one was published under the Journal of Applied Physiology and consisted of members of the 100 Marathon Club. This comprised of men who completed a minimum of 100 marathons. Researchers found that half of the men examined showed signs of heart scarring. Heart scarring may lead to a condition known as “left anterior fascicular block” (LAFB). This occurs as a result of fibrous tissue forming over the organ’s left ventricle. This puts the patient at an elevated risk for heart failure or sudden death from a cardiac arrest.

If you’re still skeptical about the effects of long distance running on your heart, then look up the name Jim Fixx. He was a popular fitness figure in the 1970s who released the best-seller The Complete Book of Running. As you can probably guess from the title, he advocates regular jogging as a part of a healthy lifestyle. Well, guess what? Fixx literally dropped dead from a heart attack – while running. He was only 52-years-old.

An image of a man running in the park

How to Run for an Optimal Testosterone Boost

There’s no method set in stone, though as a rule of thumb, you should complete multiple sets of short sprints. Sprinting means going at a pace that has you rapidly panting for breath within a few seconds or a minute at the most. Perform, say, 5 to 6 one-minute sets with one minute of rest in between. There are also other exercises besides sprinting. Give these other high-intensity workouts a try:

  • Running with a weighted vest
  • Hill/incline sprints
  • Jump roping
  • Cardio kickboxing
  • Burpees
  • Box jumping
  • Running with a parachute vest
  • Running with a high altitude mask

Aside from these exercises, you can also try any activity that requires short bursts of explosive energy. Grappling-based sports like wrestling, judo and jiujitsu are excellent examples and require sudden bursts of high-intense energy when shooting for a double-leg take down or sprawling to defend one. Whatever exercise you choose, you should go at a pace that has your heart feeling like it’s about to burst out of your chest within the first set.

Put it this way: if you can speak while executing the rep, then it’s not intense enough. Also, while training in this manner is more physically demanding and agonizing, it can also be completed in a shorter amount of time. This means less time on the track and more time for the rest of your day.

Make Short, Intense Cardio a Part of Your Routine

No matter your age, your T levels can always be higher than what it is. Short distance running means higher testosterone levels, so it can only benefit you by making it a part of your routine regimen. As for marathon running, you don’t need it.


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Christopher Walker

Christopher Walker is a co-founder of UMZU and creator of the Thermo Diet. He is the first person to get a Duke Neuroscience degree in 3 years. After naturally solving his own health complications with a brain tumor as a teenager, he has devoted his life to creating all-natural products and education to help men, women, children and pets to improve their own health naturally using science-backed research.
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