By Eric Metcalf, MPH
If you’re looking for ways to boost your testosterone level, you might start by looking at your lifestyle. Some changes that are good for the rest of you could also benefit your testosterone level, if it’s low.
“I never prescribe testosterone alone without talking to men about their lifestyle,” says Martin Miner, MD, co-director of the Men’s Health Center at the Miriam Hospital in Providence, R.I.
Here are six things that can affect your testosterone level:
1. Get Enough Sleep.
Poor sleep can have consequences for your testosterone level.
George Yu, MD, a urology professor at the George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., says poor sleep is the most important factor that contributes to low testosterone in many men. A lack of sleep affects a variety of hormones and chemicals in your bloodstream. This, in turn, can have a harmful impact on your testosterone.
Make sleep a priority, aiming for seven to eight hours per night, even if it means rearranging your schedule or dropping your habit of late-night TV. Prize your sleep, just like you’d prize a healthy diet and active lifestyle. It’s that important.
If you’re having problems getting good sleep on a regular basis, talk to your doctor.
2. Keep a Healthy Weight.
Men who are overweight or obese often have low testosterone levels, says Alvin M. Matsumoto, MD, of the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle.
For those men, losing the extra weight can help bring testosterone back up, he says. Likewise, for men who are underweight, getting your weight up to a healthy level can also have a positive effect on the hormone.
3. Stay Active.
Testosterone adapts to your body’s needs, Yu says. If you spend most of your time lying on the couch, your brain gets the message that you don’t need as much to bolster your muscles and bones.
But when you are physically active, your brain sends out the signal for more of the hormone, he says.
If you’re getting little exercise now, Miner suggests starting by:
- Walking briskly at least 10 to 20 minutes a day.
- Building strength with several sessions of weights or elastic bands each week. Work with a trainer to learn proper form so you don’t injure yourself.
Don’t go overboard. Extreme amounts of endurance exercise, at the level of elite athletes, can actually lower your testosterone.
4. Take Control of Your Stress.
If you’re under constant stress, your body will be churning out a steady stream of the stress hormone cortisol. It will be less able to create testosterone. As a result, controlling your stress is important for keeping up your testosterone, he says.
Miner’s advice to the over-stressed men he sees in his office is to:
- Cut back on long work hours. If you’re logging lots of overtime, try to whittle your workday down to 10 hours or less.
- Spend two hours a day on activities that you enjoy that aren’t work- or exercise-related, such as reading or playing music.