The Risks of Extreme Fitness Routines on Testosterone and Reproductive Health

man in black shorts and black tank top doing push up

KOCHI: Moderate and progressively advancing exercise over a period of time is widely recognised as beneficial for overall health and well-being. However, the rise in popularity of extreme fitness routines has brought more attention to some potential risks associated with pushing the body to its limits.

Exercise-induced muscle tears can stimulate testosterone hormone production, facilitating muscle growth when accompanied by adequate intake of protein and nutrition. However, the delicate harmony of physical and mental health can be disrupted by excessive exercise and extreme dietary habits.

What happens?

Testosterone, a hormone essential for male reproductive health which influences everything from sperm production to libido and muscle development, is typically released in response to the microscopic tears that occur during exercise (especially large muscle group weight-bearing exercises). However, when exercise becomes excessively vigorous, the body may interpret it as stress, triggering the release of cortisol, a hormone associated with the body’s response to stress.

This imbalance can interfere with the body’s ability to produce testosterone effectively, potentially leading to hormonal disruptions and adverse effects on both physical, reproductive, and mental health.

Similarly, extreme dietary practices, such as excessive starvation, dehydration, or conditions like anorexia, can also elevate stress hormone levels, including cortisol. These hormonal imbalances have negative effects on the reproductive and general health of a man.

Sperm health

Frequent intense exercise often leaves men fatigued, which leads to poor and infrequent sexual life. This is directly linked to lower semen quality, affecting fertility.

Another overlooked risk is the potential impact on sperm quality. Research has shown that factors such as heat, pressure, and oxidative stress can damage sperm cells, leading to abnormalities and reduced fertility. Prolonged periods of intense exercise, particularly in hot environments or wearing restrictive clothing, can expose the testicles to these harmful conditions.

Extreme diet

Often extreme fitness routines go hand in hand with strict dietary habits and the use of supplements and performance-enhancing drugs like anabolic steroids. These substances can further disrupt hormonal balance and have negative effects on reproductive health.

Rest and recovery

It is crucial to strike a balance between challenging workouts and rest and recovery. So it is important to prioritise moderation.

Mind and body

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The writer is a consultant at fertility clinic, KIMSHEALTH

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