Click here to listen to a reading of this blog:
Finding the right kind of exercise as a thyroid patient is incredibly important. Great care should be taken with physical activity when you live with endocrine issues such as hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s and/or adrenal dysfunction, as too much exercise or the wrong kind can exacerbate these conditions and actually cause you to feel worse.
So how do you find what is actually going to improve your health and not send it backwards?
Exercising with Thyroid Disease Can be Difficult
Exercising with thyroid disease can prove difficult and if you used to be a very active person before the onset of your thyroid condition, it can be hard to accept that your exercise regimen may need to change so as not to make yourself more unwell.
Do you ever feel flarey, dizzy or lightheaded with exercise? Or as if you have poor stamina or poor ability to withstand much exercise? Do your arms ever feel like dead weights after exercising? Or do you experience frequent shin splints when you attempt exercise?
Common thyroid symptoms include: fatigue, heart palpitations, less stamina and long recovery periods following activity, so it is understandable therefore, that the ability to withstand exercise can be affected.
However, the important first step to learning how to adapt your exercise is by understanding the importance of slowing down and listening to your body. No two thyroid patients are the same, but we can all benefit from going at our own pace.
Be Careful Not to Over Exercise
Over exercising isn’t good for anyone, and neither is doing the wrong type of exercise for your body and abilities.
Think about this seriously: Could you be pushing your body too far and causing more harm than good? Could you actually be hindering your recovery from thyroid symptoms?
Repeatedly engaging in overly demanding exercise can cause a surge of biochemical imbalances to occur within the body, including the disruption of the hypothalamus-pituitary axis, which can affect thyroid function. Intense cardio, marathon training, weight lifting etc. with little to no recovery time can all cause extreme stress to the body, particularly thyroid function.
When too much cortisol is produced, as can happen when we overexert ourselves, it can inhibit thyroid function and cause adrenal dysfunction, where, even if our thyroid test results look OK, we still feel unwell, with on-going issues and symptoms.
If you try to exercise, only to find that you crash, feeling light-headed and faint, then this can indicate that you’re having cortisol issues. This is where you need to reevaluate your type of exercise, the frequency and intensity. You should also ensure that you’re balancing your blood sugar.
Finding The Right Exercise for You
You may think you are following a perfectly healthy workout routine, when in reality you could actually be taking your health backwards. It is important for us to know therefore when we need to slow things down and reevaluate our routines. Listening to our bodies is crucial and taking things at our own pace will help us to avoid over exercising or doing the wrong kind for our bodies.
Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and can help us to feel better with a thyroid condition, but it’s important to get the balance right.
Signs that you may need to reevaluate your exercise regimen include:
- Mood swings
- Fatigue that is also long-lasting
- Thyroid flare up days following exercise
- Loss of muscle
- Blood sugar dips after working out
- Feeling intense muscle weakness and shakiness after working out
- Disrupted sleep
- Mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression
- Brain fog/cognitive issues
- Feeling worse after working out instead of energised
Exercise options that tend to be popular among thyroid patients include: yoga, pilates, swimming, walking, gentle cycling and even dancing. Anything that can be done in the comfort of your own home and at your own pace is a big plus and if you can add a social aspect into it too – perhaps getting friends to support you – even better.
Avoid any exercise that is clearly hindering you, worsening your health, makes any of your thyroid symptoms worse, or is too intensive or high-impact. As well as the type of exercise, consider how often your body is happy to do it, too. It may not benefit from a 5k run everyday, but a 45-minute walk can work really well instead.
You may need to apply some trial and error as you give a few different types of exercise a go and see how your body reacts. You want to be promoting more energy instead of only draining yourself further. You should feel energised and happy after exercise, not worse off.
Always increase intensity and frequency slowly and if your body struggles, listen to it.
It is obviously crucial to mention here that every person (and every thyroid patient) will be different. We will all have different needs when it comes to exercise, from type of exercise to frequency and intensity. You may well need to experiment with different types and frequencies to see what does and does not work for your body.
As thyroid conditions affect people on a scale, no two experiences are the same and no two bodies will be able to handle the exact same exercise routine. Comments suggesting that we could all manage the same level of exercise “if only we tried hard enough” are unhelpful, as are suggestions that none of us can handle any exercise at all. So please do not take this article as saying the latter, either!
Speak to other thyroid patients about their favourite exercises for thriving with thyroid disease, check out what’s on at your local fitness centre or go back to basics and try some simple walking, yoga or swimming.
The time of day can also impact when you exercise. If you find that your blood sugar levels are affected or you have cortisol issues (many of us feel at our worst in the morning), you may find it better to exercise later on in the day, such as at lunchtime or in the afternoon.