Search on the internet and you’ll see plenty of information relating to links between hair loss and exercise.
Unfortunately, many of those articles appear to be contradictory. Some say authoritatively that exercising helps reduce hair drop and thinning, while others say with equal conviction that exercise can exacerbate hair loss!
What’s the reality?
It’s never simple with exercise and hair loss
The reality is, as is so often the case with hair loss, that it all ‘just depends’!
Let’s consider the most widespread official view first.
Scientifically, there is absolutely no evidence for a direct link between hard exercise and hair loss. That should be good news for all who enjoy a workout, be it demanding or more relaxed. However, that has to be tempered somewhat with the realisation that there may be some indirect or consequential links.
To give two examples:
- someone engaging in regular exercise routines isn’t careful about balancing their hydration. The exercise, therefore, regularly causes various imbalances of electrolytes etc.;
- to improve their exercise performance and enjoyment, someone goes on a rapid or highly restrictive specialised diet cutting out entire food groups. That can lead to vitamin or other key deficiencies.
Both of these are accepted potential causes of some forms of hair loss and hair thinning.
Of course, in both cases, it isn’t the direct exercise that’s causing the problem but a secondary by-product broadly linked to what might be termed ‘human error’.
The hormonal issue
In men, various forms of intensive physical exercise are known to increase testosterone levels even if for a finite period. That can be transformed into DHT (Dihydrotestosterone) and DHT’s effects in helping to promote hair loss are now well-known even if difficult to quantify and predict.
In women, it’s believed that most forms of exercise do not in themselves lead to significant increases in testosterone and where it does happen, it seems typically very short-lived. The old suggestion that heavy exercise for women leads to hair loss through the same testosterone / DHT mechanisms as MAY affect men, is now largely discredited.
However, some forms of resistance training do increase testosterone levels in women, as may taking testosterone to boost muscle mass. However, this area and its effects have been poorly researched and much remains unclear.
Yet as a counterbalance, studies have shown that men leading a sedentary lifestyle may be more prone to hair loss than those who exercise regularly and paradoxically, fitter men may have lower levels of DHT too. Once again, the exact mechanisms here are little understood and some study results are contradictory.
Is it possible to summarise?
In life, we often have to make decisions based upon trading off risks versus benefits.
It’s impossible to totally dismiss all theoretical circumstances where exercise might lead to hair thinning as ‘nonsense’. There just isn’t sufficient research to make such a bold statement.
Equally though, there is little or no evidence to equate hair drop with exercise – other than in some of the secondary effect scenarios mentioned earlier. Even there, with a little planning and care, those theoretical risks could be eliminated.
What is very clear and indisputable though is that your hair’s health is often linked to the overall health of your body. Exercise might be essential in helping you to keep fit and that in itself is likely to eliminate several possible causes of thinning hair.
In conclusion, don’t stop exercising because you think it might cause you to lose your hair!