Managing Thyroid Disorders With Exercise

Exercise is one of the most effective modifications you can introduce to combat thyroid disorders. Medication alone can’t work wonders, incorporating exercise and lifestyle adjustments is the key to better health.

By URLife Team
22 Jul 2023

Exercise plays a pivotal role in maintaining overall health and well-being, and its impact on thyroid disorders has garnered increasing attention in recent years. While exercise alone may not entirely reverse thyroid disorders, it can be an essential complementary strategy to manage and alleviate certain symptoms associated with these conditions. Whether it's hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, incorporating a well-designed exercise routine into one's lifestyle can contribute to improved thyroid function, increased energy levels, and better emotional well-being. 

Understand the potential benefits of exercise for individuals with thyroid disorders,how different forms of physical activity can positively influence thyroid health and more by reading below:


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Challenges of Thyroid Disorders

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Many thyroid disorders can have vague and non-specific symptoms, making it challenging to diagnose accurately. Fatigue, weight changes, hair loss, and mood swings are some of the symptoms that can be attributed to thyroid issues. Getting an accurate diagnosis might require multiple tests and visits to healthcare professionals.


Autoimmune Disorders

Autoimmune thyroid diseases like Hashimoto's thyroiditis and Graves' disease can lead to chronic inflammation of the thyroid gland. Managing these conditions often involves balancing immune responses and hormone levels, which can be complex and require ongoing monitoring.


Related story: Everything You Need To Know About Thyroid


Treatment and Medication Management

Treating thyroid disorders often involves hormone replacement therapy or medications to control hormone production. Finding the right dosage and medication can be a trial-and-error process, and some individuals may experience side effects or difficulties in achieving the right balance of thyroid hormones.


Lifestyle Adjustments

Certain thyroid disorders, particularly hypothyroidism, may require significant lifestyle adjustments. Dietary changes, exercise, and stress management become crucial aspects of managing the condition effectively.


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Pregnancy and Fertility

Thyroid disorders can have implications for pregnancy and fertility. Pregnancy can impact thyroid function, and thyroid issues during pregnancy can affect both the mother and the baby. Managing thyroid function during pregnancy requires careful monitoring and medical attention.

Emotional and Psychological Impact: Living with a chronic condition can take a toll on mental health. Thyroid disorders can lead to mood swings, anxiety, and depression. Additionally, some symptoms like weight gain or hair loss can affect self-esteem and body image.

Long-term Health Complications: Untreated or poorly managed thyroid disorders can lead to various long-term health complications, such as cardiovascular issues, metabolic problems, and bone health concerns.

  • Impact on metabolism: The thyroid gland plays a crucial role in regulating metabolism by producing thyroid hormones, mainly thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). When there is an imbalance in these hormones due to conditions like hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, it can lead to metabolic disturbances. Hypothyroidism can slow down metabolism, leading to weight gain and difficulty in losing weight, while hyperthyroidism can speed up metabolism, resulting in unintended weight loss.
  • Fatigue and low energy levels: Many people with thyroid disorders experience persistent fatigue and low energy levels. This can be especially prominent in hypothyroidism, where the body's reduced metabolic rate can lead to feelings of lethargy and exhaustion.
  • Muscle weakness and joint pain: Thyroid hormone imbalances can affect muscle strength and lead to muscle weakness, making it challenging to perform regular activities. Additionally, some individuals may experience joint pain and stiffness, especially in the context of autoimmune thyroid disorders like Hashimoto's thyroiditis.
  • Hormonal imbalances affecting weight management: As mentioned earlier, thyroid hormone imbalances can significantly impact weight management. Hypothyroidism can lead to weight gain or difficulties in losing weight, while hyperthyroidism can cause unintentional weight loss, despite an increased appetite.
  • Sensitivity to temperature changes: The thyroid hormones play a role in regulating body temperature. People with thyroid disorders may experience intolerance to temperature changes. Those with hypothyroidism may feel cold more often, while those with hyperthyroidism might be more sensitive to heat.


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Why Exercise is Crucial for Thyroid Health 

Boosts Metabolism

Exercise helps to increase metabolic rate, which is particularly beneficial for individuals with hypothyroidism. A sluggish metabolism is a common symptom of hypothyroidism, leading to weight gain and difficulty losing weight. Regular exercise can help counteract this effect by boosting metabolic activity and promoting weight management.


Supports Weight Management

Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for thyroid health. For individuals with thyroid disorders, especially hypothyroidism, weight gain can be a challenging issue. Exercise, combined with a balanced diet, can aid in weight management by burning calories and increasing energy expenditure.


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Enhances Mood and Reduces Stress

Exercise has been shown to improve mood and reduce stress levels. Thyroid disorders, particularly hyperthyroidism and Graves' disease, can sometimes lead to anxiety and mood swings. Engaging in regular physical activity can help alleviate these symptoms and promote a sense of well-being.


Regulates Hormonal Balance

Exercise can play a role in balancing various hormones in the body, including thyroid hormones. While it may not directly impact the production of thyroid hormones, regular exercise can help improve hormone sensitivity and responsiveness, promoting better overall hormonal balance.


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Increases Energy Levels

Many individuals with thyroid disorders, especially hypothyroidism, experience persistent fatigue and low energy levels. Engaging in regular physical activity can help combat fatigue and increase energy levels, leading to improved daily functioning and quality of life.


Improves Cardiovascular Health

Thyroid disorders, especially untreated or poorly managed cases, can impact cardiovascular health. Exercise is known to benefit the cardiovascular system by improving heart function, reducing blood pressure, and promoting better blood circulation.


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Enhances Bone Health

Thyroid hormones play a role in bone health and metabolism. In hypothyroidism, there can be an increased risk of osteoporosis due to decreased bone density. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, running, or resistance training, can help improve bone density and reduce the risk of fractures.


Supports Insulin Sensitivity

Regular exercise improves insulin sensitivity, which is beneficial for individuals with thyroid disorders. Insulin resistance can occur in some cases of hypothyroidism, and exercise can help enhance insulin sensitivity and manage blood sugar levels effectively.


Related story: Understanding Insulin Resistance


Ideal Exercises for Thyroid Patients

The type of exercise optimal for each individual may vary based on their specific thyroid condition, fitness level, and any other health considerations. Here are some types of exercises that are generally considered beneficial for thyroid patients:

  • Aerobic Exercise (Cardio): Aerobic exercises, also known as cardiovascular exercises, are activities that elevate your heart rate and increase oxygen consumption. These exercises can help improve cardiovascular health, boost metabolism, and aid in weight management. Examples of aerobic exercises include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, dancing, and aerobics classes.
  • Strength Training: Strength or resistance training involves using weights, resistance bands, or bodyweight exercises to build muscle strength and endurance. Muscle mass plays a role in boosting metabolism, so strength training can be particularly helpful for individuals with hypothyroidism who may experience muscle weakness. It also supports bone health, which can be crucial for individuals with thyroid disorders prone to bone density issues.
  • Yoga: Yoga combines physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation to improve flexibility, strength, and relaxation. It can be beneficial for both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism by reducing stress levels and promoting a sense of calm and balance.
  • Pilates: Pilates focuses on core strength, flexibility, and body awareness. It is a low-impact exercise that can be suitable for individuals with thyroid conditions who may have joint pain or muscle weakness.
  • Tai Chi: Tai Chi is a gentle form of martial art that involves slow, flowing movements and deep breathing. It can improve balance, flexibility, and relaxation, making it a suitable option for individuals with thyroid disorders looking for a low-impact exercise.
  • Swimming: Swimming is a low-impact, full-body exercise that can improve cardiovascular fitness without putting stress on the joints. It is an excellent option for individuals with joint pain or arthritis related to their thyroid condition.
  • Cycling: Cycling, whether outdoors or on a stationary bike, is an effective aerobic exercise that can help improve cardiovascular health and assist with weight management.
  • Walking: Walking is a simple and accessible form of exercise that can be suitable for individuals of all fitness levels. It is beneficial for overall health and can be easily incorporated into daily routines.
  • Low-Impact Exercises: For individuals with joint pain or mobility issues related to their thyroid condition, low-impact exercises like elliptical training, gentle stretching, and water aerobics can be good options.


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Suggested Workout Plan for Individuals with Thyroid Conditions 

Warm-up (5-10 minutes): Begin with a gentle warm-up to prepare your body for exercise. This can include light cardiovascular activities like brisk walking, marching in place, or gentle cycling.

  • Cardiovascular Exercise (20-30 minutes): Engage in some kind of aerobic exercises daily that elevate your heart rate and improve cardiovascular fitness. Choose activities you enjoy, such as walking, jogging, cycling, dancing, or swimming. Aim for a moderate intensity level where you can still hold a conversation while exercising.
  • Strength Training (2-3 times a week): Incorporate strength or resistance training exercises to build muscle strength and support metabolism. Use weights, resistance bands, or bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, push-ups, and dumbbell exercises. Start with light weights and gradually increase as you feel comfortable.
  • Flexibility and Stretching (5-10 minutes): After each exercise session, include a cool-down with stretching exercises to improve flexibility and reduce the risk of muscle soreness. Focus on stretching major muscle groups, including hamstrings, quadriceps, chest, back, and shoulders.
  • Yoga or Tai Chi (1-2 times a week): Consider adding yoga or tai chi sessions to your routine. These practices can help improve balance, flexibility, and relaxation. They are also excellent for reducing stress, which can be beneficial for thyroid health.
  • Rest and Recovery: Give your body time to recover between exercise sessions, especially if you're new to exercising or have specific health concerns. Listen to your body and avoid overtraining.


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Managing Diet with Exercise 

Managing diet along with exercise is essential for overall health and well-being. The combination of a balanced diet and regular physical activity can have a synergistic effect on various aspects of health, including weight management, energy levels, and overall fitness. Here are some key tips for managing your diet with exercise:

  • Eat a Balanced Diet: Focus on consuming a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-rich foods. Aim to include whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables in your meals. A balanced diet provides the necessary nutrients to support your exercise routine and overall health.
  • Stay Hydrated: Proper hydration is crucial for exercise performance and recovery. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially before, during, and after exercise. Dehydration can negatively impact your workout and overall well-being.
  • Pre-Workout Fuel: Eat a light, balanced meal or snack before your workout to provide your body with the energy it needs. Choose easily digestible foods that contain carbohydrates for quick energy and a small amount of protein for muscle support.
  • Post-Workout Nutrition: After exercise, replenish your body with a combination of carbohydrates and protein. This helps restore glycogen stores and supports muscle recovery. Options include a fruit smoothie with protein powder, yogurt with fruits, or a balanced meal with lean protein and complex carbohydrates.
  • Portion Control: Pay attention to portion sizes to avoid overeating, especially after exercise when you might feel hungrier. While exercise can increase your calorie needs, it's essential to strike a balance and not overcompensate with excessive food intake.
  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues. Eat when you're hungry and stop when you're satisfied. Avoid eating out of boredom or stress, and focus on mindful eating to foster a healthy relationship with food.
  • Avoid Fad Diets: Stay away from restrictive or extreme diets that promise quick results. These diets can be harmful and often unsustainable in the long term. Instead, opt for a balanced, sustainable eating plan that aligns with your health goals and supports your exercise routine.


Need all your wellness solutions in one place? A whole new world awaits just a click away.


Regular health checks are essential for everyone, but they are particularly important for individuals who are at risk of or already have thyroid disorders. Taking regular health checks can help detect them at an early stage when it is easier to manage and treat. With the UR.Life HRA, we help you to invest in your well-being through seamless interventions and targeted medical treatments. Our holistic wellness approach caters to all aspects of your well-being. We ensure that you can bring your whole self to work.

With our medical professionals by your side, routine health check-ups will never be an issue. Advanced laboratory technologies back UR.Life’s Occupational Health Centers (OHC), and with highly qualified experts/technicians, we’re committed to delivering trusted and quality recommendations, modifications and advice to you.



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