Sometimes, modern life seems determined to make us unhappy and unhealthy. And when it comes to testosterone, our lifestyles may deprive us of this hormone credited with preserving muscle, maintaining brain power and sustaining libido. But kick these endocrine-disrupting habits and you may keep pumping out testosterone well into your dotage.
Keeping your testosterone levels up to a proper level is required for a rewarding life. For men, especially, adequate testosterone is necessary for avoiding frailty. Without enough of this hormone, your muscles progressively weaken and getting around on your own becomes difficult as you move past middle age.
Modern-day testosterone killers include:
1. Gain too much weight. Being seriously overweight compromises your body’s production of testosterone.
The good news, though, is that if you lose weight, you may be able to restore your testosterone. Research at St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin, shows that weight loss can reduce the prevalence of low testosterone levels in overweight, middle-aged men by about 50 percent. In this research, scientists analyzed the testosterone levels of men who were at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
“Doctors should first encourage overweight men with low testosterone levels to try to lose weight through diet and exercise before resorting to testosterone therapy to raise their hormone levels,” study co-author Frances Hayes says.
2. Be a couch potato. The old exercise adage “move it or lose it” applies to the body’s supply of testosterone. If you spend your waking hours sitting down and barely budging, your body’s production of testosterone will never wake up.
A surprising aspect of exercise’s stimulatory effect on testosterone is that much of the testosterone teased out by physical activity may be produced in the brain. Lab research shows that merely indulging in a mild exercise like slow jogging can bring about significant increases in the supply of the brain’s testosterone.
The increase in testosterone seems to produce important potential benefits for memory and learning. When scientists examined the brains of animals who exercised, they found that the resulting increase in the hormone and its metabolites boosted the brain’s production of new neurons.
3. Don’t get enough sleep. If your sleep time decreases drastically, your production of testosterone also decreases.
You have to get enough sleep if you want enough testosterone. Research at the University of Chicago shows that if you sleep less than five hours a night, your testosterone is slipping.
“(These) low testosterone levels are associated with reduced well-being and vigor, which may also occur as a consequence of sleep loss,” warns researcher Eve Van Cauter.
At least one of every six adults gets less than five hours of sleep a night and suffers many adverse health effects because of it. This study found that skipping sleep reduces a young man’s testosterone levels by the same amount as aging 10 to 15 years.
4. Don’t socialize. If your main social activity is surfing the Internet and playing video games solo, you’re losing testosterone.
In general, men who live in isolation have lower testosterone levels. Research in Australia, for example, finds that married men have higher testosterone levels than those who are single. The married men’s higher level of socialization and frequency of sexual activity increases their testosterone. Other research shows that merely sniffing the scent of other people (particularly the scents of women, and especially the scent of ovulating women) increases testosterone.
5. Be a flunky. If you’re at the bottom of the corporate ladder, your testosterone may also be at rock bottom. To improve your endocrine production, put an end to your meek and mild ways.
Studies on primates show that males on the lower end of the social scale are on the lower end of testosterone production. Interestingly, though, research on baboons shows that being at the very peak of the power structure may not be as beneficial as being the second in command. Researchers found that males who were near the top of the social order had higher testosterone levels than those who were in charge.
6. Vote for a loser. A joint study by researchers at Duke and the University of Michigan found that young men who voted for Republican John McCain or Libertarian candidate Robert Barr in the 2008 Presidential election suffered an immediate drop in testosterone when they learned their candidates had lost.
“This is a pretty powerful result,” says Duke researcher Kevin LaBar. “Voters are physiologically affected by having their candidate win or lose an election.”
On the other hand, men who voted for the winner, Democrat Barack Obama, had stable testosterone levels immediately after the outcome. Women who voted had no significant change in their testosterone levels before and after the results were known.
Why do male losers lose testosterone? According to Steven Stanton, also of Duke, the scientific consensus suggests the testosterone response to fighting and competition in males affects their future behavior in a way that eases the transition to a new social order. The loser chills out a bit so he doesn’t keep pressing his case and cause trouble. In contrast, the winner may be motivated to pursue further gains in social status.
Pass The Testosterone Test
Your endocrine system produces a wide range of hormones, including testosterone, designed to keep your body and mind functioning at their best. Unfortunately, if your primary hobby is spending lonesome hours in front of a video screen, that system may start to sputter and malfunction. So it’s time to put down the remote control, the game controller or the cellphone, and go out into the real world to interact with other flesh and blood humans. Your testosterone will thank you.