Effects of exercise training on anabolic and catabolic hormones with advanced age: a systematic review

Hassane Zouhal*, Ayyappan Jayavel, Kamalanathan Parasuraman, Lawrence D Hayes, Claire Tourny, Fatma Rhibi, Ismail Laher, Abderraouf Ben Abderrahman, Anthony C. Hackney*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aging is accompanied by decreases in physical capacity and physiological regulatory mechanisms including altered hormonal regulation compared with age matched sedentary people. The potential benefits of exercise in restoring such altered hormone production and secretion compared to age matched physically inactive individual who are aging remains unclear.

The aim of this systematic review was to summarize the findings of exercise training in modulating levels of ostensibly anabolic and catabolic hormones in adults aged >40 years of age.

Materials and Methods
We searched the following electronic databases (to July 2021) without a period limit: Cochrane Library, PubMed, Science Direct, Scopus, SPORTDiscus, and Web of Science. Additionally, a manual search for published studies in Google Scholar was conducted for analysis of the “grey literature” [information produced outside of traditional commercial or academic publishing and distribution channels]. The initial search used the terms ‘aging’ OR ‘advanced age’ OR ‘old people’ OR ‘older’ OR elderly’ AND ‘anabolic hormones’ OR ‘catabolic hormones’ OR ‘steroid hormones’ OR ‘sex hormones’ OR ‘testosterone’ OR ‘cortisol’ OR ‘insulin’ OR ‘insulin like growth factor-1’ OR ‘IGF-1’ OR ‘sex hormone-binding globulin’ OR ‘SHBG’ OR ‘growth hormone’ OR ‘hGH’ OR ‘dehydroepiandrosterone’ OR ‘DHEA’ OR ‘dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S)’ AND ‘exercise training’ OR ‘endurance training’ OR ‘resistance training’ OR ‘ strength training’ OR ‘weight-lifting’ OR ‘high-intensity interval training’ OR ‘high-intensity interval exercise’ OR ‘high-intensity intermittent training’ OR ‘high-intensity intermittent exercise’ OR ‘interval aerobic training’ OR ‘interval aerobic exercise’ OR ‘intermittent aerobic training’ OR ‘intermittent aerobic exercise’ OR ‘high-intensity training’ OR ‘high-intensity exercise’ OR ‘sprint interval training’ OR ‘sprint interval exercise’ OR ‘combined exercise training’ OR ‘anaerobic training’. Only eligible full texts in English or French were considered for analysis.

Our search identified 484 records, which led to 33 studies for inclusion in the analysis. Different exercise training programs were used with nine studies using endurance training programs, 10 studies examining the effects of high intensity interval training and 14 studies investigating the effects of resistance training. Most training programs lasted ≥2 weeks. Studies, regardless of the design, duration, or intensity of exercise training, reported increases in testosterone, Sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), Insulin like growth facor-1 (IGF-1), Human growth hormone (hGH) or Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) [effect size: 0.19<d<3.37, small to very large] in both older males and females. However, there was no consensus on the effects of exercise on changes in cortisol and insulin in older adults.

In conclusion, findings from this systematic review suggest that exercise training increases basal levels of testosterone, IGF-1, SHBG, hGH and DHEA levels in both male and females older than 40 years of age. The increases in blood levels of these hormones were independent of the mode, duration, and intensity of the training programs. However, the effects of long-term exercise training on cortisol and insulin levels in elderly people is less clear.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSports Medicine
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 21 Nov 2021


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