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Year : 2013  |  Volume : 13  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 48-50

Effects of aerobic exercise intensity on serum cortisol and testosterone in trained young men

1 Clinical Fellow of Nephrology, Internist, Parsa Hospital, Tehran, Iran
2 Department of Exercise Physiology, Islamic Azad University, Central Branch, Tehran, Iran

Date of Web Publication28-May-2013

Correspondence Address:
Suzan Sanavi
Clinical Fellow of Nephrology, Internist, Parsa Hospital, Tehran
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/1319-6308.112232

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This study evaluated the exercise-induced changes in circulating cortisol and testosterone levels, as anabolic and catabolic hormones, to determine various factors influencing on these hormonal levels in males. It seems that exercise intensity has a contributory role in this regard, which must be more investigated.

Keywords: Aerobic exercise, cortisol, testosterone

How to cite this article:
Sanavi S, Kohanpour MA. Effects of aerobic exercise intensity on serum cortisol and testosterone in trained young men. Saudi J Sports Med 2013;13:48-50

How to cite this URL:
Sanavi S, Kohanpour MA. Effects of aerobic exercise intensity on serum cortisol and testosterone in trained young men. Saudi J Sports Med [serial online] 2013 [cited 2023 Jun 5];13:48-50. Available from: https://www.sjosm.org/text.asp?2013/13/1/48/112232

  Introduction Top

With respect to the important role of physical activity in maintaining health and the effects of sub-maximal aerobic training, as a popular exercise, on physical fitness, cardiovascular system, and quality of life, many investigations surrounding this issue have been performed. [1] Pituitary-target gland hormones have been suggested as useful indicators of exercise-induced homeostatic disorders. The ratio between serum cortisol (catabolic hormone) and free testosterone (anabolic hormone) indicates exercise work-load and homeostatic balance. [2] Exercise-induced homeostatic disorders may be related to exercise intensity (more than 50% of maximal oxygen consumption) and duration, which trigger the sympathetic nervous system and cortisol overproduction while inhibit testosterone secretion. [3],[4] To determine the effects of different intensities of sub-maximal aerobic exercise on serum cortisol and free testosterone, we conducted a study on 17 trained (regular training at least 3 days/week during 2 years ago) healthy young men with physical characteristics including: Age = 23.33 ± 1.56 years, BMI = 21.6 ± 0.91 kg/m 2 , VO2max = 48.6 ± 3.96 ml/kg/min.

  Materials and Methods Top

Aerobic power of the participants was measured using "Bruce test" on treadmill, 5 days before the research protocol. [5] Then, they met in 3 sessions of aerobic exercise consisting 30-min running on treadmill with 3 different intensities of 70%, 80%, and 90% of maximal heart rate (MHR), which were prescribed on a random basis and interfered with 48-hour resting period. [6] All sampling procedures were planned for each participant in the same conditions, to neutralize the effect of circadian rhythm. Serum cortisol and free testosterone were assayed as basal and immediately, and 1 hour post-exercise. Data analyzes were performed using the SPSS v. 16, and P -values < 0.05 were considered as significant.

  Results Top

Serum cortisol levels showed significant elevation following increasing of exercise intensity at 0 h post-exercise (P = 0.025). One hour post-exercise cortisol value at the intensity of 90% of MHR was higher than the other intensities; however, it was insignificant (P = 0.345). Post-exercise serum total testosterone at the intensity of 90% of MHR indicated higher levels comparing to the other intensities, which was insignificant (P = 0.384). Serum-free testosterone had increased levels immediately after the activity at the intensity of 70% of MHR, which declined during 1 h later (P = 0.27) comparing to free testosterone levels at the other intensities. With increasing the exercise intensity, the ratio between total testosterone to cortisol at 1 h post-exercise significantly decreased (P = 0.026) while the ratio between free testosterone to cortisol (FTCR) showed insignificant changes (P = 0.075 at 0 h and 0.7 at 1 h post-exercise). The exercise-induced hormonal changes have been summarized in [Table 1].
Table 1: Pre- and post-exercise serum cortisol, total testosterone, and free testosterone levels at different exercise intensities

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  Discussion Top

Indeed, similar to other researches, we found that post-exercise cortisol levels had a positive correlation with the exercise intensity, which remained in high values for longer period at 90% of MHR. This catabolic response may be attributed to muscle glycogen depletion leading to lipolysis for supplying the body energy requirements by the counter regulatory hormones. [7] There are different reports regarding relationship between the exercise intensity and post-exercise androgen values, which may be due to previous training status of participants, type, intensity, volume, and duration of prescribed exercises. [4],[8],[9],[10],[11],[12],[13],[14],[15] It has been reported that exercise-induced catecholamine release has been accompanied with increased testosterone levels without significant changes in luteinizing hormone (LH). As the FTCR is a useful indicator of exercise work-load and body homeostasis catabolic-anabolic balances), it seems that understanding of exercise influences on androgen levels needs more investigations with repeated measurements, because of pulsating nature of androgen secretion, in longer periods. In addition, with regard to catabolic response to high intensity exercises, restoration of energy resources to maintain optimal homeostasis is suggested.

  References Top

1.Bishop NC, Gleeson M. Acute and chronic effects of exercise on markers of mucosal immunity. Front Biosci 2009;14:4444-56.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Adlercreutz H, Harkonen M, Kuppasalami K, Näveri H, Huhtaniemi I, Tikkanen H, et al. Effect of training on plasma anabolic and catabolic steroid hormones and their response during physical exercise. Int J Sport Med 1986;7(Suppl 1):27-8.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Budde H, Voelcker-Rehage C, Pietrassyk-Kendziorra S, Machado S, Ribeiro P, Arafat AM, et al. Steroid hormones in the saliva of adolescents after different exercise intensities and their influence on working memory in a school setting. Psychoneuroendocrinology 2010;35:382-91.   Back to cited text no. 3
4.Galbo H, Richter EA, Hilsted J, Holst JJ, Christensen NJ, Henriksson J, et al. Hormonal regulation during prolonged exercise. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1977;301:72-80.   Back to cited text no. 4
5.Maud PJ, Foster C. Physiological assessment of human fitness. 2 nd ed, Vol. 3. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics; 2006. p. 19-39.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Tanaka H, Monahan KD, Seals DR. Age-predicted maximal heart rate revisited. J Am Coll Cardiol 2001;37:153-6.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Kanaley JA, Weltman JY, Pieper KS, Weltman A, Hartman ML. Cortisol and growth hormone responses to exercise at different time of day. J Clin Endoc Metab 2001;86:2881-9.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Varrik E, Oopik A, Viru M. Exercise-induced catabolic response to various muscle fibers. Canad J Sport Sci 1992;17:125-8.   Back to cited text no. 8
9.Jezova D, Vigas M, Tatar P, Kvetnanský R, Nazar K, Kaciuba-U?cilko H, et al. Plasma testosterone and catecholamine responses to physical exercise of different intensities in men. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol 1985;54:62-6.   Back to cited text no. 9
10.Bosco C, Tihanyl J, Rivalta L, Parlato G, Tranquilli C, Pulvirenti G, et al. Hormonal responses in strenuous jumping effort. Jpn J Physiol 1996;46:93-8.   Back to cited text no. 10
11.Dressendorfer RH, Wade CE. Effects of a 15-d race on plasma steroid levels and leg muscle fitness in runners. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1991;23:954-8.  Back to cited text no. 11
12.Keizer H, Janssen GM, Menheere P, Kranenburg G. Changes in basal plasma testosterone, cortisol, and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate in previously untrained males and females preparing for a marathon. Int J Sports Med 1989;10(Suppl 3):S139-45.  Back to cited text no. 12
13.Jensen J, Oftebro H, Breigan B, Johnsson A, Ohlin K, Meen HD, et al. Comparison of changes in testosterone concentrations after strength and endurance exercise in well trained men. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol 1991;63:467-71.  Back to cited text no. 13
14.Daly W, Seeqers CA, Rubin DA, Hackney AC. Relationship between stress hormones and testosterone with prolonged endurance exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol 2005;93:375-89.  Back to cited text no. 14
15.Thomas NE, Leyshon A, Hughes MG, Davies B, Graham M, Baker JS, et al. The effect of anaerobic exercise on salivary cortisol, testosterone and immunoglobulin (A) in boys aged 15-16 years. Eur J Appl Physiol 2009;107:455-61.  Back to cited text no. 15


  [Table 1]

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