People with hypothyroidism often struggle with weight gain. One of the ways to counter the effects of a sluggish metabolism is to rev it up with regular exercise. Exercise causes tissues to be more sensitive to thyroid hormone and increases the amount of hormone that is secreted from the thyroid gland. While dieting can decrease the metabolic rate, exercise can bring it back up. Although all exercise is beneficial for hypothyroid patients, some types are better than others. Consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
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Hypothyroidism means an underactive thyroid gland. The condition is more common in women than men, especially as women approach and go through menopause. Hypothyroidism has a number of symptoms, ranging from constipation, low body temperature, fatigue and brain fog to problems with hair, skin and nails. It can also cause menstrual problems and depression. Hypothyroidism can be diagnosed with a simple blood test, and treatment usually involves medicine that replaces the missing hormone.
Some experts believe aerobic exercise is the best type for hypothyroidism. Thyroid Guide recommends rowing, swimming, walking, cycling, hiking and dancing -- activities that get your heart pumping and cause you to sweat -- as good aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise strengthens the heart and lungs and burn calories. At least 30-minute sessions four to five days a week are suggested. Mary Shomon, thyroid advocate and author of "Living Well With Hypothyroidism," adds that aerobic exercise is a natural mood elevator and antidepressant that can help the depression that often accompanies an under-functioning thyroid.
Also important are muscle and strength-building exercises. These types of exercises protect the joints, tendons and ligaments and build strength for handling everyday activities such as carrying groceries. Working out at a gym or at home with weights is an example, as are exercises like lunges, leg raises and pushups. These exercises raise the metabolic rate as well. A combination of aerobic exercise and strength training would be a good program for someone with hypothyroidism. You can alternate between the two on different days of the week. In all exercises, start slowly and work up to a higher level.
Writing for Thyroid-Info.com, Mary Shomon advocates a program of 20-minute interval aerobics. Start by picking an aerobic activity you enjoy doing, such as walking, running, jumping rope or stationary bike or stairclimber. Imagine the hardest you could possibly work at this activity on a scale from 1 to 10, which would probably be a 10. Cut the level in half, to a 5, to begin with. For 2 minutes do the activity at a level 5. Then go up to 6 for a minute, then 7, then 8 and then 9. Return to level 6 for a minute and continue the succession as before. On the fourth run-through, do levels 6 through 9 again, but during the 18th minute, go to level 10, the hardest you can go, for 1 minute. Finish up with level 5 for the last minute. Notice that it is all relative to your fitness level. Your level 5 might be someone else's level 8.
- Thyroid Guide: How Exercises Benefit in Hypothyroidism
- Thyroid Info: The Ultimate Thyroid Patient Exercise Program
- "Living Well With Hypothyroidism"; Mary J. Shomon; 2000