Mechanisms Behind Estrogen's Beneficial Effect on Muscle Strength in Females

Dawn A. Lowe; Kristen A. Baltgalvis; Sarah M. Greising


Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2010;38(2):61-67. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Muscle weakness ensues when serum testosterone declines with age in men. Testosterone's female counterpart, estrogen, also has been implicated in age-related strength loss, but these results are less conclusive. Our working hypothesis is that estrogens do benefit muscle strength, and that the underlying mechanism involves estrogen receptors to improve muscle quality more so than quantity.


The loss of skeletal muscle strength occurs with age, but the reason why there are differences in rates and magnitude of losses between females and males is not clear. Sex hormones likely contribute to this difference. Whereas lowered serum testosterone levels in aged men contribute to muscle weakness,[4] the relationship between sex hormones and muscle strength in women is not so well understood. Furthermore, mechanisms by which testosterone improves strength in aged men are known (e.g., Ferrando et al.[6]), but mechanisms of how estrogens (e.g., estradiol, estrone, estriol) and/or progesterone affect skeletal muscle function have not been elucidated. Our working hypothesis is that estrogens do benefit muscle strength as demonstrated in both postmenopausal women and estrogen-deficient rodents. Furthermore, we hypothesize that the mechanism underlying estrogen's effect on muscle strength results from actions of nuclear estrogen receptors (ER) that ultimately cause an improvement in the function of myosin. In the following sections, we provide mounting evidence supporting these suppositions.


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