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Exercising with Thyroid Disease: Breaking the Exercise Barrier

Exercise and Thyroid Disease

For many thyroid patients, regularly exercising is one of the most challenging and frustrating habits to establish or develop. Unfortunately, without a healthy exercise routine, or regularly being active, one’s metabolism, thyroid, and overall health suffers significantly. The benefits associated with exercise are almost limitless but some of the highlights include improved mood, better sleep, greater respiration, and not to mention looking and feeling better.

Those with health conditions that inhibit “normal” exercise may feel defeated and live without hope of enjoying physical activity. Regardless of one’s health or fitness level there are ways to stay active and improve one’s overall wellness. No matter the barrier be that lack of time, thyroid-related issues, fatigue, or immediate exhaustion, there are ways to break down exercise barriers that block the path to better health.

The Challenges of Hypothyroidism

Exercise is a challenge for many people but those with hypothyroidism have their own set of roadblocks to overcome. Even though exercise is a necessary aspect of improving thyroid function, there are several common issues that inhibit a thyroid patient’s ability to get active and stay active.

A key component of thyroid dysfunction is poor metabolic function. One’s metabolism is what dictates the amount of energy that is spread throughout the body. Those with hypothyroidism frequently feel fatigued and exhausted, meaning that they have little energy to commit to exercise. Other issues associated with a slowed metabolism include the body holding on to carbs and sugars, insulin resistance, and greater fat retention.

Various studies have shown that low thyroid hormone levels can inhibit cardiac function. This causes the heart to slowly degrade and atrophy over time. Without engaging the heart in healthy exercise there is increased risk of developing ventricular arrhythmia also known as rapid heart rate. Poor cardiac function can make it difficult for one to exercise effectively and causes one to become easily fatigued.

Many hypothyroid patients experience exercise inhibiting symptoms such as fatigue, joint pain, heart palpitations, brain fog, and depression. All of which make exercise difficult. However, if one can safely and regularly engage in physical activity, it can be greatly beneficial for the thyroid and one’s overall health.

Hypothyroid Exercise Tips

There are two primary components to consider when setting up an exercise routine; aerobics and muscle building. Hypothyroid patients often feel disheartened and lose motivation because they may not be able to run for a certain period or take part in more intense sports. The most important thing to remember when starting to exercise is recognizing that everyone is at a different fitness level and you should not be frustrated or disappointed with where you are. The following guidelines are a framework for one to work at their own level and achieve results.

Support Heart and Thyroid Health with Aerobics

Interval training is an excellent method of approaching exercise no matter the fitness level. Regardless of the exercise, be it running, cycling, swimming, jumping rope, or whatever your favorite mode to move is, you can benefit greatly by doing it with interval training.

An interval routine hinges on individual effort level. Exercising in this way uses a scale of 1-10 with 1 being little to no effort and 10 being the all-out hardest effort possible. Depending on one’s unique fitness level, these numbers will mean different things. For some, a 5 might be a light jog and a 9 being a hard sprint. For others, a 5 may be a slow walk, with a 9 being a brisk step. The beauty of this method is that it is centered entirely on one’s ability rather than a generic metric.

A Simplified Interval Workout

The routine begins with 1 minute of your chosen exercise at an effort level of 5. Every subsequent minute increase the effort level by one until reaching 9. After a minute of working hard at 9, drop back down to a 6 and start the process over. The fourth time starting this cycle, begin the process of increasing your effort level from 6-10. 10 means working as hard as possible and giving it your all. After doing your absolute best for one minute return to an effort level of 5 to cool down for one minute.

Intensity level will shift with the completion of each circuit. Depending on the day, one’s 5 may be lower or higher than other days. Simply adjust accordingly to the current state of your body.

Start Slow and Listen to Your Body

Your first experience with any exercise should be done safely and cautiously. Start out slow to build up endurance and strength instead of pushing too hard and increasing the risk of injury. Take note if something doesn’t feel quite right like muscle spasms, twinges, or a lingering pain. These types of experiences let you know that a certain motion or pose is not being done correctly or intensity is too high. In some cases, you may need to switch exercises to something less intense on a given muscle group or joint.

Muscle Building Exercises

Strength training can help combat reduced metabolism caused by poor thyroid function. Muscle building exercises help improve symptoms associated with hypothyroidism and improves cardiovascular function. Muscle mass is incredibly important because it aids in metabolic function and burning of calories, which are two primary issues associated with hypothyroidism.

The following six exercises, as recommended by personal trainer Igor Klibanov, can be incorporated into a hypothyroid workout routine to help build muscle mass and strength.

  • One-legged dead lifts
  • Squats
  • Overhead press (or similar vertical push)
  • Lat pull-down (or similar vertical pull)
  • Push-up (or similar horizontal push)
  • Rowing (or similar horizontal move)

Klibanov goes on to suggest reps of 15 for each exercise working one’s way up to 20. Furthermore, he says that most individuals with joint issues tend to find these exercises efficient and effective with little to no stress on the joints.

Low Impact High Reward

Joint and muscle pain is a frequent complaint of hypothyroid patients. To avoid undue stress on important areas such as the knees, hips, back, etc. it is best to engage in low-impact exercises and activities such as yoga, Pilates, walking, swimming, and biking. Yaroslav Gofnung, MD, an endocrinologist at Los Robles Hospital says that a low-impact aerobic and strength training plan is highly beneficial for those with thyroid issues. Low impact exercises can effectively work the lungs and heart without putting one’s joints at risk.

Hopping Over the Hurdles of Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism throws many hazards and roadblocks in the way of achieving better health. The inhibiting hurdles of fatigue, joint pain, depression, and others can seem insurmountable. Trying to exercise regularly may seem impossible when dealing with the frustrating symptoms of hypothyroidism. However, if one can get into a healthy workout routine, they may come to discover that their hypothyroid symptoms improve. In addition to aiding the thyroid, being active and engaging in healthy exercise can help one achieve better health and wellness.





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4 years ago

What diet should one follow?

2 years ago

This is an amazing article. I love how you stated all the insights you put into each of the topics discussed. More power!

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