When it comes to hormones, not all exercise is created equal. For the most part, exercise is considered helpful for maintaining hormonal balance. Regular exercise helps with stress levels, primarily by lowering cortisol and releasing the “feel good” neurohormone dopamine. However, some exercise regimens can actually lead to increased hormonal imbalance, so it’s important to be mindful when choosing your approach to exercise. Our #AYBH challenge is specifically formulated to help you create lifelong habits, including a segment on exercise for hormone balance.  Join the #AYBH challenge here.

Why exercise can be bad for you?

Exercise regimens that can lead to hormonal imbalance are quite apparent when we take a look at the plethora of female athletes who stop menstruating, a condition known as athletic amenorrhea. This condition is not terribly uncommon, and can unfortunately have serious consequences for those impacted. In cases of amenorrhea, essentially what happens is, due to excessive exercise, particularly in the forms associated with low body weight, a female’s body falls into starvation mode, in which the body shuts down various organ systems in order to prioritize its own survival.

The reproductive system is one of the systems impaired. Additionally, stress hormones are released in excess quantities, further interfering with the brain’s production of the reproductive hormones necessary to maintain healthy menstruation. This leads to those affected by amenorrhea to become estrogen-deficient.

Any exercise regimen taken to an extreme can lead to this condition, especially if it is also paired with low body weight. Forms of exercise that appear more likely to contribute to inhibited hormonal balance in female athletes include activities like ballet dancing, gymnastics, and long distance running.

The good news

On the other hand, certain forms of exercise can cause a world of good in contributing to a balanced hormonal state. The most important thing is balance. When creating or modifying your exercise routine, look for activities that bring the body and mind into an overall state of balance. A good rule of thumb is you should look for exercise forms that leave you feeling more energized afterward, rather than physically depleted.

When and how ofter to exercise for maximum result

The time of month is also an important factor to consider when deciding what types of activities to engage in or how vigorous you want your exercise regimen to be. According to Dr. John Douillard, DC, CAP, a globally recognized leader in the fields of natural health, Ayurveda, and sports medicine, you should also aim not to schedule exhaustive and/or vigorous activities directly prior to or during the monthly menstruation cycle.

Ayurveda, one of the world’s oldest forms of medicine, deriving from India over 3,000 years ago, considers the monthly menstruation period a time for rest and rejuvenation, honoring the body’s natural cycles. Rather than being considered an inhibitor, this time of the month is viewed as a sacred opportunity to listen to the body, using our body’s natural cycles, feelings, and impulses as a window into what is happening within. During the monthly cycle, it is recommended to go for light walks, meditate, and relax.

For the remainder of the month, following a balanced exercise program can further aid in maintaining healthy hormone levels. Here are some sample exercise ideas:

Exercise Plan for Hormonal Balance:

Yoga and pilates. Yoga is recommended as a practice that regulates all the systems of the body, helping to correct imbalances before they can become serious problems. Pilates can also serve beneficial, as it helps to build strength in a low-impact, safe way while bringing the body to an overall state of balance.

    • Some great yoga postures for hormonal health include:
      • Legs up the wall pose (viparita karani)
        • This restorative pose can (and should!) be done every day, for its calming and therapeutic benefits.
      • Child’s pose (balasana)
        • Option to add a twist here to aid with stomach discomfort from cramps.
      • Butterfly pose or bound angle pose (baddha konasana)
        • One of the best hip openers there is!
      • Bridge pose (setu bandhasana sarvangasana)
        • This backbending posture can be done either restoratively, with a block or bolster, or more dynamically by engaging the muscles to lift the hips.
      • Shoulder stand (salamba sarvangasana)
        • K.S. Iyengar, one of the first modern yogis, emphasized the significance of the shoulder stand in regulating the body’s health. He describes this pose as a panacea for most common ailments, as it increases blood supply to the thyroid and parathyroid glands. Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism result in imbalances of the thyroid hormones. Iyengar recommends doing this pose daily.
        • Please note, it is not advisable to practice inversions during menstruation.
      • Plow pose (halasana)
        • A great pose to do immediately after shoulder stand
      • Reclining hero pose (supta virasana)
    • Interval training can also be incredibly beneficial, even of the high-intensity variety, as long as it is not done to extreme measures. In as little as 30 minutes, done 2-3 times per week, short, intense, interval workouts help to combat weight gain that may be associated with hormonal imbalance as well as improve overall mood functioning. Lower moods and/or frequent mood swings can sometimes appear as a symptom of hormonal imbalance in both men and women.
    • Walking is another form of low-impact exercise that is a sure-fire way to boost your mood, particularly if you walk outside, among nature.
      • In general, the more you can get moving throughout the day, the better! If you spend much of your day seated at a desk or otherwise, I recommend scheduling regular breaks in which to get up and walk around.
    • Strength training. Because hormonal imbalance, especially as women age, can lead to increased risk for osteoporosis as a result of reduction in bone tissue density, strength training using weights remedies this by providing a healthy amount of stress to the bones, which in turn builds greater bone density.


There is much research circulating on the effects of exercise on hormonal balance. Many studies conducted on this topic delve deep into the details, including complicated terminology and analyzing the pieces, rather than providing the big picture. My aim is to provide guidance and tips, including a comprehensive, easy-to-follow exercise plan for anyone who wishes to maintain healthy hormone levels and/or to address a hormonal imbalance.

Long term slow result is key 

This plan is meant to serve as one piece in the pie of holistic health. Other factors, including nutritional intake, environmental influences, psychological health, social support and spiritual endeavors will also play roles in hormone functioning. That said, exercise can be a wonderful means for tuning into your body and feeling good physically, which often then translates to feeling good mentally!

This exercise approach is not one-size-fits-all, so I encourage you to listen to your body, partaking in activities that feel most beneficial to you. And if you have specific questions and/or concerns, it is always advisable to consult with a doctor to determine the best approach to caring for you individually.