Manage Your Thyroid with Exercise

Your thyroid gland may be tiny, but it plays a big role in how well your body functions. It regulates overall health. That’s because the thyroid produces a hormone that regulates your metabolism, the process that converts what you eat and drink to energy.

The thyroid gland is one of the most easily damaged by toxins, nutrient deficiencies, and stress. If you are living and breathing on this planet, these factors affect us every day.

2 Types of Thyroid Dysfunction:

Thyroid disease manifests itself as either an underactive thyroid gland or hypothyroidism. The disease can also cause over functioning thyroid gland or hyperthyroidism. Because the thyroid gland is responsible for producing hormones that regulate metabolism, both hypo- and hyperthyroidism can impair your ability to engage in physical activity.

It is now estimated that 1 in 5 people have a sub-optimal thyroid that has not been detected. All current research points the finger at untreated thyroid conditions can increase our risk for many chronic health concerns if left untreated.

How do you know if your Thyroid is functioning well or Not?

There are many clues that your thyroid gland may not be functioning at an optimal level. And if you observe these signs, visit your doctor immediately for a thorough examination.

  1. Fatigue

Energy issues with constant dragging yourself throughout the day is a sign of underactive thyroid. Also if you constantly need to sleep 9+ hours before you feel normal, this might be the clue of an underlying thyroid imbalance.

  1. Digestion problems

Constipated? Bloated? Feeling ‘heavy’ in the stomach? Your thyroid gland controls your bowel function. If this sounds like you it is possible you have a hypo-functioning (sluggish) thyroid. On the flip side, if persistent diarrhea is more your thing — have your doctor run the tests above to rule out hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid).

  1. Skin/hair problems

With hypothyroidism, hair frequently becomes brittle, coarse and dry, while breaking off and falling out easily (it is normal to lose up to 100 hairs per day). Skin can become coarse, thick, dry, and scaly. In hypothyroidism, there is often an unusual loss of hair in the outer edge of the eyebrow. With hyperthyroidism, severe hair loss can also occur, and skin can become fragile and thin. Any changes in any of the above warrants a thorough workup.

  1. Depression/Anxiety

Depression or anxiety — including sudden onset of panic disorder — can be symptoms of thyroid disease. Hypothyroidism is most typically associated with depression, while hyperthyroidism is more commonly associated with anxiety or panic attacks.

  1. Menstrual irregularities and fertility issues

In general terms, heavier, more frequent and more painful periods are frequently associated with hypothyroidism, while shorter, lighter or infrequent menstruation can be associated with hyperthyroidism. Infertility can also be associated with undiagnosed thyroid conditions.

 How can Exercise Help?

Many thyroid diseases require medication, and exercise can complement treatment. For people with hypothyroidism, exercise can offer a natural antidote to symptoms such as weight gain, depression, muscle loss and low energy levels. Exercise raises your metabolism and increases lean muscle mass, helping you burn more calories. Exercise also boosts mood and energy levels. Hyperthyroidism can cause sleeplessness and low energy levels, both of which may be lessened with regular exercise.

Caution before you Start Exercising:

Exercise can help alleviate the symptoms of some thyroid conditions, but it is not a substitute for medical treatment. If you have or suspect you have a thyroid disease, see your doctor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment. Medication is often prescribed to combat common conditions such as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism and can alleviate symptoms. If you experience sharp or lasting pain or fatigue while working out, stop immediately and see your doctor. Thyroid patients should be cautious not to exercise excessively, as low energy levels and muscle weakness is common problems for those with thyroid disorders.

Exercise Recommendation:

The American College of Sports Medicines recommends that adults do moderately intense cardiovascular workouts for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, for maximum health benefits of boosting metabolism and mood without stressing the body as much as intense cardio workouts.

  1. Aerobic Exercise guidelines:

Frequency: >5 days per week to max energy expenditure (if obese) and/or improve cardiorespiratory fitness where weight control is not a primary concern

Intensity: 40 – 75% heart rate reserve. Progress to higher intensities as tolerated, notwithstanding any precaution advised by your doctor.

Time: 30-60 minutes per day. If you are unable to tolerate long, continuous activities, consider intermittent bouts of 10 minutes duration accumulated throughout the day.

Type: Select aerobic exercises, which engage the large musculature of the body. Perform resistance-training and progress as tolerated (ACSM)

      2. Resistance Training:

The guidelines for resistance training in people with diagnosed and medically – managed thyroid condition may be similar to those of the healthy population.

Frequency: Resistance training for each major muscle group 2-3 days per week with at 48 hours separating the training session for the same muscle group.

Intensity: Train each muscle group for 2-4 sets with a range of 8-12 repetitions per set with a ret interval or 2-4 minutes.

Duration: session duration will vary depending on the number of exercises

Type: Adults are recommended to perform multi-joint exercises affecting more than one muscle group and targeting opposing (agonist/antagonist) muscle groups. Single joint movement may also be performed, but remember to consider the planes of movement and try to incorporate functional exercises with relevance to your activities of daily living.

P.S Always talk with your doctor before beginning any exercise regimen. And never make exercise a substitute for thyroid medication.



Dr. Mansi Parikh (PT),

Co-founder EndoRush App.