The thyroid is a gland found in the front, lower portion of the neck. It creates thyroid hormone needed for heart, brain and muscle function, metabolism and heat production. Hypothyroidism, or under-active thyroid, is a condition causing many body processes to slow down, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. This condition can affect both males and females of all ages. Weight gain may be a factor, but exercise can help to improve thyroid function.
Moderate exercise performed three or more times each week can stimulate thyroid function. The best types of exercise, according to TheNaturalPlace.com, are walking, swimming, water aerobics, biking or jumping on a mini-trampoline. Exercise that increases metabolism, reduces stress and strengthens the immune system, such as yoga and Tai Chi, is also recommended. In a study published in "Neuroendocrinology Letters" in December 2005, researchers found that low-intensity exercise was beneficial to thyroid hormone levels.
Many people with hypothyroidism experience weight gain from a lowered caloric need. Weight training, a form of anaerobic exercise, can help to improve fitness and metabolic rate for weight loss once thyroid levels have stabilized, according to CSA.com. Under-active thyroid can cause joint pain and weakened muscles from impaired respiration and oxygen supply. Individuals with untreated hypothyroidism may have a low tolerance for high-intensity anaerobic exercise.
The University of Maryland Medical Center lists contrast hydrotherapy, or the application of hot and cold compresses, to the neck area as a method that may increase thyroid function. Alternating three minutes of heat with one minute of cold therapy in a repeated manner several times per day is recommended. Other therapies including herbs, acupuncture, and nutritional changes may also be helpful for stimulating an under-active thyroid.
Under-active thyroid is a condition that should not be self-diagnosed. Blood tests ordered by your physician can determine hypothyroidism. Conventional treatment typically includes synthetic thyroid stimulating medication, but alternative treatments may be recommended. You should communicate with your doctor to determine the best course of treatment. Aerobic and anaerobic exercise intensity can be gradually increased when thyroid levels are balanced to maintain good health and manage symptoms related to the condition.