Is your current exercise routine sabotaging your thyroid health?
If you have a thyroid condition, you may be experiencing one or more of the following when it comes to exercise:
- You’re exhausted and can’t imagine attempting exercise or even making it to the gym
- You’re making exercise a regular habit but you find that it takes you forever to recover and you experience lots of muscle or joint pain afterward
- You’re working out like crazy and are beyond frustrated that your best efforts at the gym aren’t getting you any closer to your goals
If any of the above sounds familiar, read on!
Hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s Disease can make exercise a challenge. Why? A low thyroid also means a low metabolism. Even if you’re taking medication and your thyroid labs are “normal” your metabolism could still be suffering.
First and foremost is to make sure your thyroid labs (especially your free T3) are optimal so you have the stamina and energy to make it through your day AND get some exercise in. With optimal labs you will also recover faster from exercise and experience less muscle and joint pain.
Secondly, (and this is the important part!) the type and length of exercise can make a big difference for hypothyroid folks.
Did you know that high intensity or extended periods of exercise can actually lower your Free T3 (your most active thyroid hormone) and increases your Reverse T3?
This combination is like a big brake pedal for your thyroid gland telling it so slooow down. For people with low thyroid function, this is the opposite of what we want!
Here are some questions to ask yourself to help decide if your current exercise plan is right for you:
- How do you feel during exercise?
If at any time you feel dizzy, lightheaded or fatigued during exercise it may be too strenuous.
- How do you feel after?
After exercise, you should feel energized and upbeat due to the positive endorphins that are released with physical activity. If you’re feeling sore, exhausted, or like you need a nap, you may need to dial back the intensity of your workouts.
- Could you do the same exercise again?
If the answer is yes, you’re exercising at the sweet spot of intensity (not too low and not too high)
- Do you enjoy it?
Please, pick something you actually enjoy! Exercise doesn’t have to mean slugging it out at the gym day after day. Walking, hiking, yoga, biking, karate, swimming or mowing the lawn are all wonderful ways to move your body.
Here are my general recommendations on how to exercise for your thyroid:
- Keep your exercise at a low to moderate intensity (less than 75% of your maximum heart rate) for approximately 30-40 minutes.
- Avoid high-intensity cardio or extended periods of exercise. Don’t over do it – your body will interpret this as stress and will slow down your metabolism even more to conserve energy. Exercises to think twice about would include marathons, high-intensity spinning, or aggressive HIIT training.
- Build muscle! Cardio is not king in the thyroid world. More muscle = better metabolism.
- Listen to your body. If you feel good both during and after exercise, it’s likely a good choice for you.
Have questions? Book your Free Thyroid Assessment to learn more!
Dr. Katie Rothwell, ND