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.
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 British Thyroid Foundation (BTF) suggests individuals with hypothyroidism can try walking for 30 minutes a day when introducing exercise into their routine.
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
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:
- calf raises
- 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:
In addition, regular physical activity can boost a person’s mental health and improve sleep quality.
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
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
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.