Your thyroid gland plays a vital role in metabolism regulation, and consequently, your overall health. As part of the endocrine system, the thyroid releases hormones that travel throughout the body to stimulate the metabolism and energy production of every cell. Several complications affect thyroid function, which, in turn, can influence your ability and desire to exercise. However, exercise may help treat certain thyroid diseases.
The thyroid produces two hormones called thyroxine and triiodothyronine, using the iodine you consume in your diet as a building block. These hormones act on nearly all cells in the body by increasing and regulating the basal metabolic rate, bone growth, protein synthesis, vitamin metabolism and the cells’ sensitivity to other hormones, such as epinephrine. Thyroxine and triiodothyronine production and secretion is controlled by the thyroid-stimulating hormone, a hormone released by the pituitary gland, which in turn is controlled by the thyrotropin-releasing hormone, a hormone released by the hypothalamus. A complication with any of these hormones can significantly affect the production and action of the others hormones, according to The Hormone Foundation.
Hypothyroidism refers to decreased production of the thyroid hormones, which results in a significant decline in metabolism. Common symptoms of the syndrome include fatigue, weight gain and mental depression. Conversely, hyperthyroidism refers to increased activity of the thyroid gland, leading to an increased metabolic rate. If you have hyperthyroidism, you may experience muscle weakness and tremors, weight loss, irritability and infertility.
Effect on Exercise
Both thyroid syndromes can affect your ability to exercise. Hypothyroidism leaves you feeling mentally and physically sluggish. Attempts to exercise are further complicated by weight gain, sore joints and constant fatigue. At first glance, hyperthyroidism may seem advantageous for exercise because of the increased metabolism rate. However, abnormally high amounts of thyroid hormones can eventually cause brittle bones that may increase your exercise-induced fractures.
Benefits of Exercise
Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism require formal medical treatment, but research has shown that exercise successfully complements treatment plans. Exercise primarily benefits those with hypothyroidism. A study published in Neuroendocrinology Letters in 2005 reported that maximal aerobic exercise increases the circulating levels of thyroxine, triiodothyronine and the thyroid-stimulating hormone. In addition, physical activity increases your metabolic rate, hinders weight gain and combats stress. The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that exercising 30 minutes a day, five days a week, can help reduce symptoms of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
- Human Physiology: An Integrated Approach; Dee Unglaub Silverthorn, Ph.D.
- The Hormone Foundation: Thyroid Disorders Overview
- Neuroendocrinology Letters: Exercise Intensity and Its Effects on Thyroid Hormones
- The Natural Place: How to Improve Thyroid Function
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Hyperthyroidism
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Thyroiditis
- National Osteoporosis Foundation: Diseases and Conditions that May Cause Bone Loss