Fitness and Exercise Tips for Thyroid Patients

by Mary Shomon Patient Advocate

If you are a thyroid patient, you may want to know what types of exercise you should and shouldn’t do. Find out more in these nine key fitness and exercise tips for people with thyroid conditions.

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Hyperthyroid? Get your doctor’s approval

An important warning to start: If you are hyperthyroid, you should get your doctor’s approval before doing any type of exercise that will raise your heart rate. Hyperthyroidism can overheat your body, increase your heart rate and blood pressure, and put a strain on your heart. Ask your doctor if it's safe to exercise, and listen to any recommendations to avoid exercise until your thyroid is in better control.

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Always warm-up stretch

When you have a thyroid condition, even with treatment, your muscles may suffer from a lower level of oxygen and blood flow. It’s important to incorporate a warm-up and gentle stretching into your regimen, to help oxygenate muscles, improve blood flow, and prepare muscles for your workout. If you don’t know what type of warm-up or stretching is best, consider a one-time session with a personal trainer.

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Build muscle

Muscle increases your metabolism, and even at rest, your body’s muscle burns more calories than fat. So, if you have only so much energy for workouts, consider activities that build muscle. You don’t need to lift 100-pound weights or become a body builder. Even hand weights or exercise machines that help build muscle will help you strengthen and build more fat-burning muscle mass.

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Build and activate muscles

One way to effectively build muscle is to follow a program that activates multiple muscles with each movement. A workout program that is very popular with thyroid patients is T-Tapp, created by exercise physiologist Teresa Tapp. T-Tapp works multiple muscles with each movement, making each movement more effective, and shortening the time you need to exercise. Try the T-Tapp Floor Workout, or Senior Fit, for gentle muscle-building routines

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Build muscle with your own body weight

You can get the benefit of building muscle without ever picking up a weight or getting on an exercise machine. Programs such as Pilates and yoga use your own body weight and resistance to help build metabolically-active muscle mass.

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Move your lymph

Your lymphatic system is designed to move toxins out of your body via lymph, a fluid that travels through vessels in the body. While the heart is the pump that moves blood through the body, the lymphatic system’s only “pump” is movement, especially walking, bouncing, and rebounding. Consider incorporating some lymphatic activity into your fitness program to help move lymph.

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Try inverted poses

For centuries, yoga experts have recommended inverted poses, where your heart is above your head, for people with thyroid disease. Inverted poses increase blood flow and circulation to your thyroid. You can do a full or supported yoga shoulder-stand. If you’re not as adept at the shoulder-stand, consider the equally effective wall-supported shoulder-stand.

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Incorporate relaxation-based movement

Relaxed, mindful movement can be an important part of any fitness program. It can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, as well as your levels of the belly fat-boosting hormone cortisol. Consider incorporating a relaxation-based exercise into your regime, such as gentle yoga, tai chi, or qigong into overall your weekly fitness program.

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Don’t overdo it

At appropriate levels, exercise reduces cortisol levels and supports your adrenals. But too much intense exercise can be stressful for your body, and raise your cortisol levels. This can make exercise counterproductive. If it takes you an unusually long time to recover after exercise, consider replacing some of your more intense activities with gentler, lower-intensity activity.

Mary Shomon
Meet Our Writer
Mary Shomon

Mary Shomon is a patient advocate and New York Times bestselling author who empowers readers with information on thyroid and autoimmune disease, diabetes, weight loss and hormonal health from an integrative perspective. Mary has been a leading force advocating for more effective, patient-centered hormonal healthcare. Mary also co-stars in PBS’ Healthy Hormones TV series. Mary also serves on HealthCentral’s Health Advocates Advisory Board.