People with hypothyroidism may benefit from low impact aerobic exercises, such as walking or swimming. Certain types of strength training, such as yoga and Pilates, may also ease symptoms and boost overall health.

Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones.

Symptoms of an underactive thyroid include fatigue, weight gain, depression, and joint pain, all of which can make exercising more challenging. However, regular exercise may improve some hypothyroidism symptoms as well as a person’s overall physical and mental health.

It is best for people with hypothyroidism to speak with their doctor before implementing a new exercise regime to ensure they stay safe. Setting small goals and choosing enjoyable, low impact exercises may make exercising regularly in the long term easier.

This article examines the best exercises for a person with an underactive thyroid, including aerobic and strength training options, how much activity a person should aim for, and tips for exercising more easily.

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Walking at a brisk pace can be a good form of exercise for people with hypothyroidism. It does not require a gym membership or special equipment, making it accessible and affordable.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend walking as a suitable way to obtain the benefits of exercise — including improvements in cardiac health, sleep quality, and mental health.

The British Thyroid Foundation (BTF) suggests individuals with hypothyroidism can try walking for 30 minutes a day when introducing exercise into their routine.

Cycling is a low impact aerobic option that could benefit people with hypothyroidism who experience joint pain.

A 2018 study found improved quality of life in women with subclinical hypothyroidism who started walking or cycling for 60 minutes per day, three times a week.

As with cycling, swimming and water aerobics are gentle on a person’s joints. This may allow people with hypothyroidism who experience joint pain to exercise for longer periods.

Some potential ways to incorporate swimming into an exercise plan include:

  • swimming laps at a local pool
  • walking or running in the water
  • joining a water aerobics class
  • swimming in the sea

Discover 15 more benefits of swimming.

Yoga has the potential to reduce physical pain, improve mental health, and help a person lose weight if necessary. It can also help build muscle strength and increase flexibility.

Dynamic stretching is another technique that can help boost mobility and flexibility, which could worsen with hypothyroidism.

Resistance training can help people manage their weight, improve joint flexibility, and strengthen bones, among other benefits.

Yoga and Pilates are both types of resistance training. Some individuals may use weights in their routines or can use their body weight during strength training.

Some examples of body weight resistance training to try include:

  • pushups
  • squats
  • lunges
  • calf raises
  • planks
  • tricep dips
  • glute bridges

Incorporating exercise into a daily routine may present a physical and mental challenge for people with hypothyroidism. To overcome this, the BTF suggests redefining what it looks like.

Redefining exercise can make fitting it into a busy schedule more manageable. It can also help make physical activity more enjoyable, which may encourage a person to continue exercising in the long run.

Some ways to redefine exercise, make it more fun, and fit it into a daily routine include:

Hypothyroidism can affect the heart, potentially leading to changes in heart function and a decreased heart rate. However, physical exercise can strengthen the heart, improving its function and lowering the risk of heart disease.

In addition, regular physical activity can boost a person’s mental health and improve sleep quality.

A 2018 study suggests moderate physical activity improves health-related quality of life scores in people with subclinical hypothyroidism.

In this study, 22 women with subclinical hypothyroidism participated in 60 minutes of aerobic activity three times a week for 16 weeks. Following this, they reported improved physical and mental health, as well as improved condition symptoms.

If an individual is experiencing difficulty with hypothyroidism symptoms, it is best to speak with a healthcare professional. They will be able to advise on how to start exercising safely and may be able to help plan a routine.

How much exercise is best?

According to the CDC, adults need 150 minutes of moderate physical exercise each week and 2 days of muscle training.

However, this may look different for different people. Some individuals may find it easier to do 30 minutes of exercise five times a week. Others may find it easier to incorporate multiple shorter workouts into their day.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism can make physical activity challenging to start and continue long term. The BTF suggests people can help make exercise easier by:

  • beginning with small, manageable goals, such as walking for 20 minutes a day, and building on this over time
  • tracking progress with tools such as a step counter
  • enlisting a friend or family member to exercise with
  • choosing exercises that feel enjoyable
  • incorporating multiple short exercise sessions into daily routines
  • practicing proper rest and recovery
  • eating a balanced, nutritious diet to fuel the body

Individuals with hypothyroidism should speak with a healthcare professional when starting to exercise to ensure they are staying safe.

Below are some common questions about hypothyroidism and physical activity.

What is hypothyroidism exercise intolerance?

A 2021 article suggests that people with hypothyroidism may experience limited physical activity performance due to the symptoms their condition causes.

Symptoms that can lead to exercise intolerance include fatigue and pain in the muscles and joints.

Can too much exercise cause thyroid problems?

Researchers in a 2022 study associate daily resistance and endurance training with lower levels of thyroid hormones. However, they note that these changes were modest and further investigation is necessary to improve public health strategies.

A person with hypothyroidism should always speak with a doctor before starting a new exercise regime to ensure they stay safe and as healthy as possible.

People with hypothyroidism may find it challenging to exercise regularly due to symptoms such as fatigue, joint and muscle pain, and weight gain.

However, regular exercise — including low impact aerobic activity and strength training — may ease these symptoms and boost overall physical and mental health.

Redefining exercise and setting smaller goals may help a person with hypothyroidism continue to engage in physical activity in the long term.