November 19th, 2010
08:43 AM ET

Can heavy weight exercise cause hair loss?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Friday, it's Dr. Melina Jampolis, a Physician Nutrition Specialist.

Question asked by Maddy of Boston, Massachusetts:

Can exercising with heavy weights make one lose hair?

Expert answer:

Hi Maddy. According to the American Hair Loss Association, by the age of 35, two-thirds of American men will experience some degree of appreciable hair loss and by 50, some 85 percent suffer from significant hair thinning.

In 25 percent of men, hair loss may begin as early as 21. Ninety-five percent of male pattern baldness, the most common form, is genetic and can be passed down by either parent. Other less common causes or contributors to hair loss include medication, severe and prolonged stress or illness and malnutrition causing severe nutrient deficiencies including protein, zinc, magnesium, calcium and iron. In women, hair loss is common after childbirth, I'm discovering.

To answer your specific question, I turned to Dr. Jeffrey Rawnsley, clinical associate professor of facial and plastic surgery at UCLA and director of the Rawnsley Hair Restoration Clinic.

He explained that testosterone is converted to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which can shrink hair follicles in genetically susceptible individuals.

However, because of the extended duration of hair growth cycles (three to five years), it is unlikely that this effect would be seen soon after starting a weight lifting program. In addition, weight lifting causes a transient increase in testosterone after each weight lifting session, which is not likely to have a long term effect on hair loss.

On the other hand, weight lifters taking anabolic steroids or supplements designed to increase testosterone levels could see an acceleration of normal male pattern hair loss if they are genetically predisposed. In addition, supplements containing too much vitamin A could contribute to hair loss.

So it is very unlikely that your weight lifting program is contributing to hair loss. More likely, your hair has been thinning over time and you are beginning to notice as a critical level has been reached, usually about 50 percent, according to Rawnsley.

If you are very concerned, you may want to consider Propecia, a popular treatment for hair loss, which blocks the formation of DHT and can slow or even reverse hair loss in some cases.

soundoff (54 Responses)
  1. Info about Biotin

    There is a lot of information on various blogs about how Biotin can help reduce hair loss. My question is what is biotin, how does it work and does it at all help reducing hair loss?

    November 19, 2010 at 11:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lis

      i have experienced hair loss for 7 years and i have added biotin to my daily supplements. does it work? eh, maybe. does it hurt? no. adding biotin to your diet will mostly only help if you have a deficit of biotin in your diet. my doctors have told me it is safe to take up to 1000 mcg of biotin a day. biotin is vitamin b7 and while i do not think they have established a link between biotin and most cases of hair loss, a deficit of biotin WILL cause hair loss. and biotin can generally be difficult to achieve in even a healthy diet.

      other vitamins may be helpful as well- some examples are a good multivitamin (to make sure you are not missing any important nutrients), iron (low iron will cause hair loss/thinning), fish oil/omega 3 fatty acids (reduces inflammation, which can cause hair loss as well).

      November 19, 2010 at 12:58 | Report abuse |
  2. Bill

    I'm an old time weight lifter, with over 45 years of lifting experience. In fact, I was heavy lifting (as much as I still can) last night.

    In my late 20's & early 30's I noticed I was losing a lot of hair. I could see it on the Bench Press bench. I was starting to have male pattern baldness, which I still have today; 30 years later. But, this amount of sudden hair loss was a mystery to me and my doctors.

    What I determined was happening is that during the Bench Press, and several other exercises, I was locking my head solid against the Bench, and pivoting on the hair loss spots. Thus, literally pulling the hair out of the back and top of my head. Due to the weight load stress, you don't even notice the pain from pulling your hair out.

    I corrected this problem by placing a folded towel under my head on each lift. This greatly reduced my hair loss, and along with Rogaine Hair solution, I still have a full head of graying hair. With just a small patch of bald area on the crown, about the same amount I pulled out in my 30's.

    I hope this tip helps your young weight lifters avoid excessive hair loss.

    November 19, 2010 at 11:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Lis

    uhhh how come someone called 'maddy' wrote in and you basically just answered it as if she was a man? the only treatment you suggested, propecia, is only FDA-approved for treating male pattern baldness. also, you wrote a lot about the reasons why men could lose hair, and briefly mentioned in passing that women can lose hair after they have children.

    as a 24-year old woman who has experienced hair thinning for SEVEN years, i take responses like this fairly personally. in fact, 40% of people experiencing hair loss are women. i have gone through probably 10 dermatologists, an endocrinologists, and multiple primary care doctors in my quest to find ANY doctor who cares about (or knows anything about) female hair loss.

    there are over 20 different conditions that can cause hair loss. treatments that you didn't mention include rogaine (for both genders), adding nutrients into the diet (iron, biotin, etc.), cortisone injections or an anti-inflammatory topical treatment, hormone regulators, and more.

    i could see exercise affecting hair loss indirectly- i.e. starting a new exercise program could be stressful on your life (financial, time, etc.) and you could be prone to hair thinning due to stress. maybe you also have low iron, that is exacerbated by your workout routine, or perhaps you are eating differently with your new schedule and missing important nutrients.

    November 19, 2010 at 12:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Maddy

      I started noticing hair loss whenI started lifting heavy weights at gym and increased my intake of protein. I was working out 6 days a week but now i have reduced to 3 days and stopped taking protein supplements. I do notice a significant drop in hair loss now.BTW Maddy(Me) is a dude.

      November 19, 2010 at 13:02 | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      Lis, Maddy said he is a "dude", that is slang for "man". Also, exercising is a great way to relieve stress, so I am not sure how starting a new exercise program would be stressful. You should always plan your diet so that you don't miss important vitamins and nutrients. I know hair is much more important to women than men, but don't stress so much about it, you still have your health and most importantly you are still alive.

      November 19, 2010 at 13:33 | Report abuse |
    • Lis


      Maddy replied in the comments that he was a guy- it did not state it in the article. Since I know 3 girls named maddy and 0 guys, I assumed that Maddy was a female. My mistake.

      November 21, 2010 at 15:35 | Report abuse |
  4. joe6pac

    Research suggests that Saw Palmetto can help with thinning hair resulting from high testosterone levels by preventing the conversion of testosterone into DHT. As men age, more and more of their testosterone (whether produced naturally or augmented by sports supplements) gets converted into DHT. DHT has been proven to greatly accelerate hair loss in males (there is an indigenous population in the Caribbean – the Dominican Republic I think – with a genetic mutation that prevents conversion of testosterone into DHT. Males in this ethnic group who have this mutation are just as muscular and masculine as any other men, but not ONE of them has any kind of hair loss, even well into their 70s and 80s). Increased DHT is also known to cause enlargement of the prostrate. This is why many men experience both hair loss and prostrate problems as they age - because their bodies are converting more and more testosterone into DHT.

    I'm in my early 40s and lift regularly. I also have a full head of hair (no baldness). Periodically (about every other month or so), I take sports supplements that boost testosterone production, and when I first started using them (about a year ago) I experienced a fair amount of hair loss (enough to be noticeable and troubling). I did some research and discovered that Saw Palmetto is believed to help protect against DHT-induced hair loss, and so I started taking it regularly. It corrected my problem. I no longer experience hair loss. I have a completely full head of hair. I also have experienced a reduction in symptoms associated with an enlarged prostrate (primarily frequent urination/difficulty urinating).

    Anyway, just thought I'd pass along the info. If you're like me - in your 30s-40s, weight train regularly, and use testosterone boosting sports supplements - and you're experiencing accelerated hair loss, give Saw Palmetto a try. It's a natural, inexpensive alternative to Rogaine/Propecia that just may solve your problem.

    Happy lifting!

    November 19, 2010 at 14:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Bob

    I think you have a better chance loosing your hair from stress.. And since exercise is a good stress buster.. i say this a myth.. Someone out there is thinking of making money on this myth$$$$$$$$..

    November 19, 2010 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Iron Celt

    Lis wrote that "(low iron will cause hair loss/thinning)." I found out the hard way that high iron (inherited hemochromatosis) also causes hair loss. I didn't know I had the disease till most of my hair fell out and it was found that my stored iron was 40 times higher than normal

    November 19, 2010 at 17:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. ElliotSpitzer

    YES IT DOES....
    You can trust me ......I always tell the truth!

    November 19, 2010 at 18:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Alli Veshii

      Another fine piece of journalism....
      Pulitzer prize is on its way...
      We can put it right next to my Oscar for Wall Street 2.....

      One of these days I will actually beat Richard Quest and sound like I know what I am talking about...

      Mr Egghead ...................

      November 20, 2010 at 15:36 | Report abuse |
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      November 20, 2010 at 15:42 | Report abuse |
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    I hope this story does NOT miss the cut-off...

    November 19, 2010 at 18:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. razzlea

    I dont think excercise will make you lose your hair but i think its stress and being overweight will. If you need any additional information on health and fintess check out my blog.http://razzlea.blogspot.com/

    November 19, 2010 at 21:39 | Report abuse | Reply
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    The benefits of the "Hypersonic Weight Loss" system are almost too numerous to mention. For starters, I lost over 50 lbs and 37 inches of body fat. My hot flashes are gone and so are my muscle cramps. I haven't suffered from allergies since I started and I'm off 6 medications. I'm back to living life exactly how I want to!

    November 20, 2010 at 03:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. trichozed

    I think it can.

    November 20, 2010 at 05:02 | Report abuse | Reply
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    November 20, 2010 at 15:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Sid

    Men start losing hair at about the same time they start lifting weights and having sex .

    November 20, 2010 at 19:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Tony G

    Hair loss shampoo: Regenepure. Sulfate free with Ketoconazole. Supposed to be good, any feedback. I want to try it

    February 23, 2011 at 00:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Amanda

    Weight Lifting causes hair loss because it will increase the testosterone. The testosterone can be converted to Dihydrotestosterone (DHT). If the DHT is increasing, your hair loss will show up. We all know that HAIR is the richest ornament for us. The only product to be used for combating and preventing hair loss problem is Leimo treatment product – the top hair loss treatment industry and has been used by many men and women in all United Kingdom, United States, Australia and also in Asia. Leimo Laser Comb is the advanced hair treatment to combat hair loss and improve the growing of your hair. If you want to read about Leimo hair loss products, then visit this website http://www.Leimo.biz.

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    May 13, 2011 at 23:04 | Report abuse | Reply
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  19. Elden Johanningmeie

    Generally, hair loss in patches signifies alopecia areata. Alopecia areata typically presents with sudden hair loss causing patches to appear on the scalp or other areas of the body. If left untreated, or if the disease does not respond to treatment, complete baldness can result in the affected area, which is referred to as alopecia totalis. When the entire body suffers from complete hair loss, it is referred to as alopecia universalis. It is similar to the effects that occur with chemotherapy.:,

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    May 13, 2013 at 05:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Vertie Tyberg

    Generally, hair loss in patches signifies alopecia areata. Alopecia areata typically presents with sudden hair loss causing patches to appear on the scalp or other areas of the body. If left untreated, or if the disease does not respond to treatment, complete baldness can result in the affected area, which is referred to as alopecia totalis.

    June 7, 2013 at 05:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Berniece Schomer

    Pattern balding is distinct from alopecia areata, which commonly involves patchy hair loss. Extreme forms of alopecia areata are alopecia totalis, which involves the loss of all head hair, and the most extreme form, alopecia universalis, which involves the loss of all hair from the head and the body.',"..

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    June 8, 2013 at 10:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. mdjaman

    Good Written
    Believe me i am not i am totally fit about weight but losing my hair when taking bath.Searching Solution.Can you help me ?

    September 5, 2013 at 10:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. John

    hey Jaman you may use hairmax Regrowth solution.Get Review here http://hairmaxreviews.info/

    September 5, 2013 at 10:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Dilip Singh

    Yes, Heavy weight exercise causes hair loss a lot. It happened with me also and I tried lot to recover my loss but no noticeable changes were seen till then I tried dualgen-15. It showed me some early results and faith on it that's why I am using it from 7 months and a lot has been recovered. It can be tried from dualgen15express.com

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