Having a thyroid problem can make you easily feel tired. However, although the lack of energy can interfere with your regular exercise program, incorporating exercise into your daily routine helps manage your symptoms better.
A 2005 clinical trial showed that maximal aerobic exercise can greatly affect the levels of circulating thyroid hormones, causing an increase in T4 (serum total thyroxine), fT4 (free thyroxine), and TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) values.
The following are the 5 best exercises for thyroid patients:
- Yoga (e.g., supported shoulder stand, cobra pose, and cat-cow pose)
- Resistance & strength-building activities
- Biking (traditional or stationary bike)
How do you follow these exercise routines as a thyroid patient and why are they good for you? Let’s discuss each of them below.
The 5 Best Exercises For Thyroid Patients
Flexibility and stress relief are the most popular reasons people decided to start yoga. According to statistics. Many people find that after starting a regular yoga practice, they feel more relaxed and less stressed overall. But that’s not all.
Several studies show that yoga or following yogic practices can greatly improve the levels of important thyroid hormones in your body.
For example, a 2016 study showed that 6 months of yoga practice can help in improving serum TSH and reducing the thyroxine requirement in patients suffering from hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).
A 2014 study also showed that subjects who regularly practiced yoga for a period of one month experienced a reduction in the following symptoms:
- Rapid weight increase or unexplained weight loss
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Hair loss
- Feeling of laziness
- Improper hormone levels
Yogic practices used in this study include the following:
- Kapalabhti kriya
- Āsana (Svastikasana, Tadasana-I, Tadasana-II, Vajrasana, Supta Vajra, Trikonasana, Parsvakona, Purvottaadsana, Pavanamukta, Pascimottanasana, Bhujangasana, Yoga Mudrasana, Janusirsasana, Matsyendrasana, Ustrasana, Uttanapada, and Viparitakarani)
- Mudra Halasana (Ashwini Mudra)
- Ujjayi Praṇāyāma (ocean sounding breath)
- Anuloma – Viloma and Bhastrika
- Ajapajapa Meditation
- Yoganidra (a deep relaxation technique)
You can also do these yoga poses which are considered to be throat-stimulating:
- Supported shoulder stand – an inversion technique that stimulates blood flow to glands in your upper body, including the thyroid glands
- Plow pose – another inversion pose that can work the same way as the supported shoulder stand
- Legs up the wall pose – it’s a relaxed pose that doesn’t directly involve your neck area but this restorative inversion pose restores balance, relieves stress, and reduces thyroid imbalance
- Camel pose – the backward motion increases circulation to your thyroid area and stimulates your thyroid glands
- Boat pose – this V-position has a positive influence on your thyroid glands and neck muscles
- Fish pose – a counterpose to the shoulder stand that stimulates your thyroid to improve its function by exposing the throat area
- Cat-cow pose – this fluid pose exposes your throat chakra to improve blood flow to the area
- Cobra pose – it’s a gentle pose that stimulates your thyroid glands by tilting your head
- Corpse pose – although it sounds morbid, this pose lets your body fully relax as you lie completely still for a certain stretch of time
- Wheel or upward bow pose – this advanced yoga pose can be challenging pose but once you can achieve it, this stimulates energy flow to your throat and thyroid area
Yoga might not be for everyone but walking is one of the easiest exercises to do for thyroid patients, as long as you don’t have any mobility issues.
Although a gentle form of exercise, studies show that walking can also stimulate thyroid gland secretion and increase tissue sensitivity to thyroid hormones.
Based on these studies, regular walking can have a similar effect as yoga and swimming in improving thyroid function.
Although hypothyroidism reduces exercise capacity, regular physical exercise coupled with hormone replacement therapy can improve your physical and mental state.
As your condition improves, you can try walking at a brisk, firm pace for at least 30 minutes a day, for at least three times a week.
3. Resistance & Strength-Building Activities
A 2020 study showed that school children with intellectual disabilities had significant changes in serum concentration levels of TSH and thyroid hormones T3 and T4 following sixteen weeks of progressive-intensity resistance exercises.
The results of the study are believed to work in a similar manner for thyroid patients.
You can do resistance training using resistance bands, which are similar to large, heavy-duty rubber bands. They offer resistance the more you stretch them.
Another way to do resistance exercises is to use your own body so you won’t need special equipment.
Examples can include the following:
- Leg squats
- Abdominal crunches
It’s also a good idea to start lifting weights for strength building. However, make sure to start with the lowest options or try dumbbells and kettlebells first. Also, check with a trainer to ensure you’re following the right form to avoid injury.
Like walking, dancing lets you put your leg muscles to good use. Plus, it’s also a fun way to exercise, which helps you relax and relieve stress. These effects are similar to yoga.
You can join a dance studio or community center for dance and recreation classes. Pick your favorite dance style and genre.
Just be sure to respect your body’s limits and avoid moves that can make your partner accidentally hit your neck, particularly if you have a tracheostomy tube.
5. Biking (Traditional Or Stationary Bike)
Like walking and dancing, biking can also improve your health and stimulate thyroid hormone production.
No matter what type of bike you’re using, this form of exercise can be good for your body and is also a great cardiovascular exercise.
If you choose the traditional bike, it’s even a great way to relieve your stress as you enjoy the scenery.
Just make sure that you don’t overdo yourself and have someone bike with you.
Remember that your thyroid condition can make you feel tired more easily, and even affect your breathing. So, don’t attempt a dangerous bike route without prior training, especially if you’re going out alone.
Benefits Of Exercise for Underactive thyroid
Maintaining Healthy Weight
The thyroid glands control the body’s metabolism. That’s the reason why you’ll notice that many thyroid patients experience either unexplained weight gain (hypothyroidism) or rapid weight loss (hyperthyroidism or an overactive thyroid).
Exercise is one of the simple and effective ways to help thyroid patients maintain a healthy weight.
This is important because obesity can also lead to a host of other medical problems, including high blood pressure and heart problems.
Improving Cardiovascular Health
Patients with hypothyroidism have an increased risk for heart or cardiovascular problems.
Exercise can help improve your cardiovascular health and reduce these risks.
Improving Energy Levels
Most hypothyroid patients feel sluggish and fatigued. But studies show that yoga and other forms of exercise can help improve their energy levels.
Improving Mood & Reducing Stress
Thyroid disease can actually affect your mood. The more severe your thyroid disease, the more severe the mood changes you’re likely to experience.
Hypothyroidism can lead to:
- Mood swings
- Excessive stress
- Short temper
- Difficulty sleeping
- Lack of concentration
- Reduced motivation
Hyperthyroidism can cause:
- Panic attacks
- Mood swings
- Sleep disturbances
- Short temper
The good news is that exercising can produce endorphins, the so-called “feel-good” hormones in your brain. These hormones can help you feel good, reduce stress, and improve your mood.
Exercise Safety Precautions & Warnings For Thyroid Patients
Your thyroid glands directly affect your metabolism and heart rate. So, it’s very important to make sure that your thyroid hormones are well controlled before you exercise.
Make sure you avoid high-intensity cardio workouts, as they can raise your heart rate and increase the amount of stress on your thyroid gland. Stick to the moderate-intensity exercises we listed above instead.
And be careful not to overdo it. When you first start exercising, aim for shorter workouts with lower intensity until your body gets used to the new routine. As your fitness level improves, you can gradually increase the duration and intensity of your workout.
Another precaution is to be careful of the type of workout supplements you take during exercise and workouts.
Many pre-workout supplements contain large amounts of caffeine and other stimulants, which can cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. For thyroid patients who are already dealing with an underactive or overactive thyroid, this can lead to further health problems. Hence, I’d recommend considering these best pre-workouts for hypothyroidism.
Finally, be sure to seek guidance from your doctor before doing any exercise – and don’t overdo yourself, particularly during the first sessions.
After getting the go-signal from your doctor, you can find the right exercise regime and pace to suit your body’s needs and capabilities.
No matter which exercises you pick from our list above, start slow. It’s also best to do it with someone who can be your guide, coach, or simply a person to provide assistance in case you feel tired, out of breath, or experience a medical emergency.
Always remember that in your condition, exercise can be dangerous, but it can also be beneficial if done correctly and within the limits of your body.
If you are struggling with an underactive thyroid, don’t lose hope. There are many exercises that you can do to improve your thyroid function. Start by adding some of these exercises into your routine and see if you notice a difference in how you feel.
Remember, it is important to consult with your doctor before starting any new exercise program.
If you suffer from an underactive thyroid, remember to monitor your condition through hormone testing and adjust your treatment with your doctor.
Are there any other exercises that have helped you manage your underactive thyroid?
Joseph Tucker is a dietitian by profession and has years of experience in nutrition and fitness. He is passionate about helping others achieve their fitness and wellness goals, and he loves nothing more than spreading the gospel of health and nutrition all around the web. He also blogs at MaxHealthLiving.com.