Chopping Wood a Manlier Feel than Sports

Researchers found it significantly increases testosterone levels, even more so than competitive activities.

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Chopping wood increases testosterone production by over 40%

Being a lumberjack has long been considered among the “manliest” of professions, but now there may be scientific proof to back it up.

Researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara have discovered that chopping wood significantly increases testosterone levels, even more so than competitive activities.

Scientists have known for a while that competitive exercise, like sports, tend to increase how much testosterone the body releases. The study, published in Evolution & Human Behavior, sought to determine how non-competitive exercise — like food production — compared. In order to do so, researchers tested the testosterone levels of the indigenous Tsimane people in central Bolivia before and after they cut down trees. Their results showed a 46.8 percent increase in testosterone levels following the wood cutting, a full 17 percent higher than the testosterone bump caused by playing soccer.

(MORE: The Axemen Cometh: Scenes From the Lumberjack World Championships 2013)

The paper’s lead author Ben Trumble explained why testosterone is created during tree cutting. “If you’re better able to pull blood sugar into your muscle tissue, and better able to use that energy, you’ll be able to chop more trees,” Trumble in a statement. This is especially important for the Tsimane, who can’t just go to the supermarket and buy food.

This might explain why his team also found that, while the Tsimane tend to have lower testosterone levels than those in first world countries, they retain the ability to to produce testosterone spikes longer than their developed-nation counterparts.

“If you’re a 50-year-old Tsimane man, for example, you probably have six or more children, and you need to be able to feed them,” explained Trumble. If you lose the ability to have the acute spikes in testosterone that increase your ability to chop trees — chop longer and chop harder — that would be detrimental to feeding your family.”

Even if your life doesn’t depend on cutting wood, you can  still benefit from Trumble’s research. According to fitness expert Ben Greenfield, testosterone also helps increase lean muscle mass and bone density, and can help ward off conditions like depression and osteoporosis. Don’t worry if no trees are handy, studies have shown that weight lifting can also increase testosterone production, and Greenfield has his own list of six other ways to boost your testosterone levels.

And despite testosterone being commonly associated with males (who have a much higher quantity of the hormone), women aren’t left out either. Females receive the same benefits from testosterone spikes, and Trumble believes he would have sees the same boosts in women if they had been included in his test.

“While we didn’t measure the testosterone of women in this study, women can also produce short-term spikes,” he said. “[This] suggests the importance of acute rises in testosterone not only for competition over mates, but also for critical daily tasks such as food production.”