The best exercise to boost testosterone

Can you name the best exercise for your health as you age? Did you say jogging or running? You mean the form of exercise that places up to seven times your body weight with each foot contact on the pavement… the activity that limits your range of motion… causes you to lose fast-twitch muscle mass in your hips and thighs… and also prompts your testosterone levels to actually drop?

No thanks!

The ‘hands-down’ best exercise for your testosterone levels is fast — but brief —cardio, which includes high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

If you like to run, practice intervals: run full-out for 30 seconds, walk for 90 seconds, then repeat the sequence 7 more times. The whole exercise session takes about 20 minutes, and the majority of the time you are actually resting!

This is just one example of how to do HIIT; you can substitute other cardio for running, such as jumping rope… fast, short burst-cycling… an elliptical machine… or rowing. A quick internet search will reveal numerous HIIT programs that are easy to follow.

Fast, brief HIIT cardio is perfect for several reasons:

  1. You don’t need to exercise for long to get the benefits — just 20 to 30 minutes and you’re done;
  2. It fits into busy schedules;
  3. It boosts your T and HGH levels; and
  4. It’s usually kinder to your muscles and joints than jogging and long-distance running.

I incorporate HIIT training 3-4 times a week and recommend you do too. (If you want more detail on the specific exercises I do in my training regime there’s lots of photos and descriptions in my book, Your New Prime).

Long cardio, on the other hand, takes a significant toll on your T levels. Todd Schroeder, PhD, of the University of Southern California, has noted that elite athletes as well as amateurs who train too hard can experience a decline in testosterone as well as a rise in the stress hormone, cortisol, both signs that these men are harming their bodies. 1 Consistently elevated cortisol can result in insomnia, accumulated belly fat, low sex drive, a compromised immune system, and a greater risk of heart disease.

A study appearing in the Journal of Endocrinology, for example, evaluated the impact of long cardio (running on a treadmill for 120 minutes five times a week) on testosterone and other hormones. The men experienced a decline in both total and free testosterone and a rise in sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) associated with their long-term cardio exercise. 2 A rise in SHBG is related to a decline in testosterone because the substance makes less testosterone available to the body’s tissues.

By comparison, consider a study of a group of men who participated in HIIT. The men showed a significant increase in testosterone and an improved testosterone:cortisol ratio when they completed HIIT. 3

So the message is: Go hard, then go home! Don’t waste hours on the treadmill or those long weekend bike rides. It’s not helping you — and in fact, is doing the exact opposite.

[1] Metcalf E, MPH. Does working out affect testosterone levels? WebMD. Retrieved April 18, 2016.
[2] Safarinejad MR et al. The effects of intensive, long-term treadmill running on reproductive hormones, hypothalamus-pituitary-testis axis, and semen quality: a randomized controlled study. Journal of Endocrinology 2009 Mar; 200(3): 259-71.
[3] Sheykhlouvand M et al. Hormonal and physiological adaptations to high-intensity interval training in professional male canoe pool athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2016 Mar; 30(3): 859-66
Craig Cooper

By Craig Cooper

Craig Cooper is a serial entrepreneur, venture capitalist, author, and TV host of CNBC's "Adventure Capitalists". He is an “Ambassador” for both the global men’s health foundation “Movember” and 2XU, the performance sportswear company. He is the author of the Harper Collins book “Your New Prime: 30 Days to Better Sex, Eternal Strength, and a Kick-Ass Life After 40“. Follow Craig on Instagram @craigcooperrrr and Facebook.