The Role of Hormones and Its Effects on Our Fitness as We Age

Hormones affect almost all our body processes. It’s not surprising that if hormone levels change, it can have an effect on your overall health, including your fitness level.

Hormonal Changes as We Age

Some of the hormones in the body stay the same as we age. But others decline. The decrease in certain hormones often has several effects. Consider the following hormonal changes:

Testosterone: Testosterone decreases in men as they age. Although women produce much less testosterone than men, they produce small amounts. A woman’s testosterone level also decreases with age. Reduced levels of testosterone can lead to a decrease in muscle mass, bone density, and energy.

Estrogen: In women, estrogen levels often become erratic and unpredictable as she gets closer to menopause. After menopause, estrogen drops dramatically. Decreased levels of estrogen can contribute to weight gain and a change in body composition.  

Human growth hormone: Human growth hormone declines in both men and women as we age.Growth hormone starts to decrease after the age of 30, and it continues to drop as we get older.Growth hormone plays a role in protein production, muscle mass, exercise capacity, and energy. 

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA): DHEA is a hormone produced by the adrenal gland. It promotes the production of other hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone. Some studies also suggest it may have positive effects on muscle mass. Levels of DHEA peak in early adulthood and steadily fall as we get older.

How Hormone Levels May Affect Fitness

The above are examples of some of the hormonal changes that occur as we age. Thyroid hormones, insulin, and cortisol can also change. The effects of changing hormone levels may be different for everyone. But it’s clear a decrease in some hormones due to aging can affect your fitness for a variety of reasons.

Decreasing production of hormones can lead to a reduction in strength and muscle mass. Endurance and energy levels may also fall, which can make working out more tiring. Body composition may also change. For example, you might notice you have more fat around your midsection. Growth and tissue repair may also be slower. That means if you get hurt or sore from working out, it might take longer to heal.

What Can You Do?

It’s not all doom and gloom when it comes to maintaining your fitness level as you get older. But it might take a new approach. Consider the following suggestions to remain fit as a senior:

Do resistance training: Resistance training helps combat the decrease in muscle mass and strengthAim for two to three sessions of strength training a week.

Allow recovery days: Your muscles may respond a bit slower as you get older. You need a little more time between strength workouts to recovery.

Talk with your doctor: Depending on your symptoms, hormone replacement therapy may be helpful. HRT is not for everyone, and it’s vital to talk with your doctor about the risks and the benefits.

Watch your diet: Stick to the basics and get plenty of lean protein, veggies, fruits, and whole grains. Limit alcohol, trans-fats, and sugary foods.