Exercise vs Testosterone: What Keeps Men Younger?

older male running

New research by The University of Western Australia found that exercise is more effective at improving men’s fitness, strength, and body composition than testosterone treatment.

The results, published in American Journal of Physiology: Heart and Circulatory Physiology, apply to men with mild testosterone deficiency who may be looking at testosterone supplementation as a restorative hormone to reverse the physical impacts of ageing.

The team from UWA’s School of Human Sciences studied the impact of testosterone and exercise in 80 healthy middle-to-older aged men with low to normal testosterone levels, measuring their fitness, body composition and strength before and after a 12-week supervised exercise training program.

The men were randomised to receive either testosterone therapy, testosterone therapy with supervised exercise training, a placebo and supervised exercise training, or a placebo only.

The group that exercised had better outcomes overall in fat mass and fitness compared to those who received the testosterone treatment.

The results also showed that adding testosterone treatment to exercise training did not provide any additional benefit to that of exercise alone in the 12-week trial.

Lead author, PhD student Lauren Chasland said overall the results pointed to exercise as a potent stimulus to help reverse some of the detrimental impacts of ageing.

“Men are far more likely to benefit from 12 weeks of exercise training than from testosterone treatment in terms of fitness, body composition and strength,” Chasland remarked.

While exercise training provided the most benefits, testosterone treatment did have a similar impact to exercise on building lean mass, the amount of body weight excluding fat, particularly in the arms and legs.

Chasland said the results suggested that men unable to exercise could obtain benefit from testosterone treatment to improve their lean body mass.

“For men who are unable to exercise due to disease or disability, testosterone treatment alone could be beneficial to maintain or improve lean mass although further studies are needed to confirm this,” Chasland noted.