Stress is a feeling or emotion that humans experience throughout their life. Human stressors can be anything from paying bills, to deadlines at work, or even someone’s hectic daily schedule.
When the human body is under stress, the brain releases a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is not a bad hormone per se, but can have some negative side effects. The release of cortisol over long periods can cause negative health responses in the body, such as weight gain, reduction in energy levels, high blood pressure, and other health issues. Further, stress can also have negative effects on the body’s anabolic androgenic hormones. Testosterone is thought to be one of the hormones that stress affects, causing testosterone levels to drop lower than normal. So, does this mean that being stressed causes an overall lower testosterone level in the body?
The Stress:Testosterone Relationship
It is thought that the relationship between stress (cortisol) and testosterone levels is a vicious cycle in the body. As stress goes up, the cortisol hormone is released which takes priority over testosterone, therefore testosterone levels go down. Higher stress levels are associated with lower testosterone. High levels of cortisol play a role in blocking the influence of testosterone’s impact on the expression of a behavior like competition or dominance. A psychology professor from The University of Texas at Austin conducted a study on the relationship between cortisol and testosterone. Researchers found that when cortisol is released due to stress the body focuses on escaping that stress and testosterone is pushed to the side. Therefore, the body is not responding to anything that influences testosterone at that time since the fight-or-flight hormone (cortisol) has taken over. The study further discusses hormonal axes, which are complex feedback mechanisms in the brain that regulate the hormones testosterone and cortisol.
How to Combat Stress
Being human, we all experience stress. We encounter stressful situations most days, and unfortunately some experience stress that can last over longer periods of time. No one should live there life in a constant state of stress. There are many helpful ways to relieve stressors in a healthy way. Exercise is a great choice and one of the most effective methods for relieving stress, especially when done regularly. Overtime, exercise can lower overall cortisol levels in the body, which helps to alleviate stress. Further, endorphins are released during exercise that help to improve one’s overall mood. Exercise can also help increase testosterone levels. Exercise is not only something we should do regularly to promote a healthy lifestyle, but also to help combat our daily life stressors. Sometimes going for a quick run or completing a tiring resistance workout can really make the difference in your day and attitude. Feeling accomplished or as if you have completed a task can really be beneficial in relieving stress.
Unfortunately, we will all experience times in our lives when we simply cannot avoid being stressed. Incorporating a regular exercise routine in to your daily life is not only beneficial for your overall health, but can also help overcome the negative effects of stress.