The Benefits of Exercise For Your Thyroid (3 Reasons to Work Out)

The Benefits of Exercise For Your Thyroid (3 Reasons to Work Out)

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Did you Know That Exercise Improves your Thyroid? 

I probably don't have to do much to convince you that exercise is important (1), right?

But I have a question for you...

Even though you know exercise is important for your overall health, are you currently exercising regularly?

If not, why not?

You may KNOW that exercise is good and healthy but are you converted to the belief that it will help YOU?

If you are like most people, then you may not actually make a change to your routine unless you completely understand why the thing you are trying to change is beneficial. 

And that's exactly what we are going to talk about today. 

I'm going to give you 3 huge reasons that you should be exercising if you have any sort of thyroid issue. 

Once you understand these benefits you will be much more inclined to make changes to your schedule to make room for regular and consistent exercise!

Let's jump in: 

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The 3 Primary Benefits of Exercise on your Thyroid

While it is true that exercise has a profound effect on MANY systems in your body, we are going to focus primarily on your thyroid gland. 

The use of exercise (based on the intensity of the exercise and not just the types of exercise you are doing) has some very unique benefits which are specific to your thyroid gland. 

And this is important because it allows you another avenue to naturally treat your thyroid. 

If you can improve your thyroid naturally, with the use of exercise, then you may be able to reduce the amount of thyroid medication that you are taking or prevent your body from needing it in the future. 

What's even better is that exercise can be added to just about any regimen and it's something that EVERYONE can do regardless of their current fitness level (more on that below). 

#1. Exercise Increases Free Thyroid Hormones and Impacts your TSH

The first and perhaps biggest benefit of regular exercise is its impact on your free thyroid hormones as well as your TSH. 

Regular exercise has been shown to naturally increase free T3 and free T4 levels (2). 

If you've spent any time on my blog then you know that this is a big deal. 

There are very few proven therapies or treatments (aside from thyroid medication) which have a dramatic effect on your free thyroid hormone levels. 

And these free hormone levels are responsible for turning thyroid function on in your body and in your cells. 

The most important free thyroid hormone is free T3, which is roughly 300x more powerful and potent than free T4. 

But if you can get a boost in both then you should definitely take it.

Why?

Because free T4 acts as a reservoir that your body can draw upon to create free T3 on demand via thyroid conversion. 

You'd never want to increase free T4 at the expense of free T3, but with exercise, you can get a boost to both free T3 and free T4. 

In addition to its effects on your free thyroid hormones, exercise also has an impact on your TSH level (3). 

Exercise can cause a drop or reduction in your TSH level

A drop in my TSH you say? Isn't that a problem?

Not at all!

In fact, that's exactly what you want to occur if you have low thyroid function

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Remember your thyroid function and TSH level operate in opposite land. 

A high TSH means that you have a low thyroid. 

And a low TSH means that you have a high thyroid. 

So if you can lower your TSH level it means your thyroid function is IMPROVING or INCREASING.

Which is exactly what you want. 

So remember this:

If you are looking for a natural way to improve thyroid function, regardless of whether you take thyroid medication or not, look no further than regular exercise!

#2. Exercise Reduces Systemic Inflammation and Thyroid Gland Inflammation

The benefits of exercise don't stop at improving free thyroid hormones either. 

In addition to these benefits, you will also see a reduction in both systemic inflammation (4) as well as thyroid gland inflammation

Systemic inflammation is the inflammation that I'm sure you are already aware of. 

This is the type of inflammation that is seen in the entire body and causes damage to your cells, various hormones, and increases your risk of heart disease as well as many other conditions and diseases. 

I don't need to tell you that you don't want this type of inflammation in your body. 

The other type of inflammation mentioned above is a little more sinister. 

And that is thyroid gland inflammation. 

Thyroid gland inflammation refers to inflammation isolated in the thyroid gland which results in damage and immune destruction to your thyroid. 

Under normal healthy circumstances, your immune system really shouldn't even come in contact with your thyroid gland as it remains relatively isolated and compartmentalized in your neck. 

But under certain conditions, such as those seen in the autoimmune thyroid disease known as Hashimoto's thyroiditis, your own immune system may irreversibly damage your thyroid gland. 

Exercise can reduce THIS type of thyroid gland inflammation which may act to prevent thyroid gland destruction in the long-run. 

Again, there are very few therapies that you can use to stop thyroid gland inflammation so it pays to know that exercise can help in this way. 

Just exercising once or twice won't cut it, though. 

You need to plan for regular exercise with frequent intervals in order to get this benefit. 

But that's what you should be going for anyway, a new lifestyle. 

#3. Exercise Improves your Metabolism Which Helps with Weight Loss & Thyroid Function

And last, but certainly not least is the impact that exercise has on your metabolism.

Thyroid function is responsible for roughly 50-70% of what is known as your basal metabolic rate. 

Your basal metabolic rate refers to the calories that you burn in your day to day activities such as breathing, eating, thinking, and so on. 

Your thyroid is responsible for the majority of the calories burned during this state. 

If your thyroid is low or damaged (from autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis) then you will see a DECLINE in your metabolism through this mechanism. 

This leads to one of the biggest and most concerning side effects of hypothyroidism - weight gain

If you noticed that you gained weight and you have a thyroid problem then your weight gain was most likely mediated through this exact pathway. 

But what can you do about it?

Well, one of the best ways to combat the weight gain from hypothyroidism is with regular exercise. 

Regular exercise can help improve your metabolism by improving your thyroid function (see #1 and #2 above) as well as improving your muscle mass. 

The more muscle mass on your body the more calories you will burn and the higher your metabolism will be. 

So if you struggle with weight gain then this should be first on your list of treatments to try. 

A word of caution about weight gain, though:

One of the WORST ways to try and fight this weight gain is by changing your diet or reducing your calories for an extended period of time. 

While you may see some slight drop in your weight by reducing the number of calories that you consume, you will pay the price by damaging your thyroid and by causing issues with T4 to T3 conversion.

Never, and I repeat NEVER, try to lose weight with calorie restricted diets if you have a thyroid problem. 

Too Much Exercise is Also Bad

Before you run out and start exercising like crazy, you must be aware of an important fact:

Exercising too much, also known as over exercising, can be damaging to your thyroid gland. 

And this is something that many thyroid patients are susceptible to. 

Under normal conditions, someone can run out and start exercising and get into a routine and rhythm fairly quickly. 

But this isn't the case for many people with thyroid conditions. 

Because of the impact that thyroid function has on cortisol and adrenal function, over exercising is a problem that many thyroid patients may encounter. 

To prevent over exercising all you need to do is listen to your body. 

While exercising will be taxing on the body it shouldn't put you in a state of extreme fatigue. 

If you feel that you are overall LESS energized after working out or exercising then the intensity of your workout should be adjusted. 

There will be many women reading this with thyroid issues who will be capable of jumping into high intensity exercise routines such as spin classes or HIIT routines. 

But on the flip side, there will also be many other women who will barely be able to tolerate something as gentle as yoga or Pilates. 

The best thing you can do is listen to your body with a goal to provide a stimulus and minor strain on your body without overdoing it. 

The Bottom Line?

As a thyroid patient, you should figure out a way to add regular and consistent exercise to your routine. 

It shouldn't come at the expense of your sleep (which is also invaluable) or your diet, but instead complement each of these therapies. 

If you can consistently and reliably exercise then you will go a long way to naturally improving thyroid function in your body. 

Now I want to hear from you:

Are you exercising regularly right now?

Have you seen any improvements in your thyroid by doing so?

If you aren't exercising, will this article help you to reconsider?

Leave your comments or questions about exercise and how it impacts thyroid function below! 

References (Click to Expand)

3 huge benefits of exercising for your thyroid gland

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About Dr. Westin Childs

Hey! I'm Westin Childs D.O. (former Osteopathic Physician). I don't practice medicine anymore and instead specialize in helping people like YOU who have thyroid problems, hormone imbalances, and weight loss resistance. I love to write and share what I've learned over the years. I also happen to formulate the best supplements on the market (well, at least in my opinion!) and I'm proud to say that over 70,000+ people have used them over the last 6 years. You can read more about my own personal health journey and why I am so passionate about what I do here.

P.S. Need more help? Check out my free thyroid downloads and resources.

25 thoughts on “The Benefits of Exercise For Your Thyroid (3 Reasons to Work Out)”

  1. Thanks so much for sharing this information. All in all …… having hypothyroidism just stinks. I try to follow a good diet (organic vegetables and fruits and grass fed meats and sustainable fish), I am fortunate to have a good conversations with a very open doctor, and I have been adding in exercise……however……NOW life is so different. I finally feel like a real person – alive and not exhausted and not always cold—-after adding t3 and using less t4 medication. But how do I get rid of the 15 pounds? Don’t diet too much, don’t over exercise…….. So….. what does that translate to? What can I expect? Will it take years to lose the weight? For me it is difficult to be faithful dieting and then to also worry about just the right amount of exercise…. So I am currently focusing on trying to add muscle via resistance training and just walking. Others must feel the same way. So thanks again for providing all of the advice and for providing links to excellent research.

    Reply
    • Ugh, Marjorie…I feel your pain! You summed it up perfectly, I’ve always been very fit and pretty lean. Now I’m carrying an excess 40 pounds! I’ve added in weight training and am trying to increase muscle mass. My brain tells me to calorie restrict, but my diet is already so clean, I’m not sure where the calories would come from anyway. I walk daily, lift weights x2/week, practice my yoga as tolerated (☹️), and still can’t drop a pound. It’s very depressing! It helps to know I’m not alone, though.

      Reply
      • Thanks so much for replying and providing an excellent link. I kinda hope the time frame is closer to 3 months but I will take 6 too!

        Reply
    • Try adding intermittent fasting to your weekly regimen of great eating.
      Start with 2 days a week where you finish eating at 7 pm the night before and then do not eat until 14 – 16 hours later, and with practice extending that to 18 hour fast. Eat a full meal then make sure you eat your 2nd meal in an 8 hour window. This has worked remarkably for a number of my patients that experience resistance in weight loss.

      Reply
  2. I have Hashimoto’s. I walk daily. I tried exercise programs and they took too much energy from me.
    I have gained weight. I tried cutting my calories, it hasn’t helped. A doctor put me on weight loss medication. It didn’t help.
    I am taking Synthroid.

    Reply
  3. Thanks for this note about exercise. I do become extremely fatigued after exercise. When this happens, I stop my routine of daily walks for a few days. But, I don’t know what to do about preserving and gaining muscle as lifting weights knocks me out for the rest of the day. I have lost weight and thank you for the tip about not engaging in longterm calorie restriction. I use a kind of homemade IF — no snacks except one protein shake, and no food after 630 pm. Dr. Child’s—have you any advice about taking GLA or amino acids? Thanks again, Kiki

    Reply
    • Hi Kiki,

      Preserving muscle mass should be a top priority! You can do that by increasing protein intake as well as using weight-bearing exercises regularly. You may even find some benefit just from something as simple as weighted walks.

      Reply
  4. Hi Westin

    This article has definitely made me reconsider exercise. I always learn something new from reading your emails. My body feels inflamed atm from being too sedentary during lockdown. I’ll start today with some gentle walking and yoga- anything more than that leaves me feeling depleted.

    Julia

    Reply
  5. I have been exercising daily for over 30 years. I became hypothyroid during the time I was exercising. I exercise an hour each day. For many years I took Zumba classes and now I walk at a fast pace everyday. I take naturally dessicated thyroid hormone. My free T3 is never as high as it should be. I am not sure what else I should do.

    Reply
    • Hi Marilyn,

      It sounds like you are doing a great job exercising so I don’t think I understand the question. If you are still having issues with your thyroid then you’d want to look into other aspects including stress, sleep, your diet, thyroid medication, and nutrient deficiencies. Your remaining symptoms should be able to be resolved by checking in those places.

      Reply
  6. Thanks – but is there any particular type of exercise you would recommend? I walk half an hour a day but I don’t know whether that’s enough or the right sort of movement.

    Reply
    • Hi Katherine,

      The exercises that you use are largely dependent on your own body, what your body responds to, and what you are capable of doing. Exercises can range from high intensity to low intensity and everything in between. What’s more important than any one specific type of exercise is just the fact that you exercise consistently.

      Reply
  7. I have been exercising religiously for about 10 years now. From weight training, olympic lifting, power lifting, and crossfit. I don’t know how it has affected my TSH as my thyroid problem started AFTER that about 7 years ago. I didn’t know I had a thyroid problem until about 2-3 years ago. Even with all of the intense weight training and cardio (I go 5 days a week. Some workouts are only 3 minutes, some are 45) I still have issues with muscle weekness and I am class 1 lifter. It’s frustrating to know/wonder/and think what I could do if I were ‘normal’ but at the same time, I very thankful just to KNOW what my problem is and be able to manage it. Doing a food intolerance test helped emensely and avoiding things that bothered me (no more food baby by 3pm) and now I am testosterone treatments along with NPT, LDN, and liothyronine. Weirdly, my blood test in April came back at .88 TSH (perfect!) and I had been on 60mg NPT, 4.5 LDN, and 10mg lio (from 30mg NPT, 4.5 LDN, and 5 lio) and I was stable having been on that for several months, and then my last test I was .045 TSH (!). I thought my TSH was getting worse because of they way I was feeling, but it was worse in the wrong direction…so weird. We Dropped back to 45 LDN and kept the rest the same. Hopefully this works. The roller coaster sucks, but if I am feel even 80% most of the year, I am happy camper from where I was a few years ago. Do I want 100%, though? YES! I WISH Dr. Childs was my doctor. 😉 but, having found a facility that does know his work and follows his research is blessing in itself.

    Reply
  8. I am 67, I have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism at 66 years old. Was sent to an ENT after a scan on my thyroid that showed nodules and a fatty mass. ENT wanted to remove part of my thyroid just to get it out-of-the-way !! Horrified. He sent me to a endocrinologist who did not want me to take a desiccated med. The doctor only wanted to test my TSH.
    Really!!? fired both and went to a gynecologist/well Doctor Who monitored my thyroid and was open to do the tests that you list on your site. I am now on armor Thyroid. I split the dose am/ pm. I’m feeling much better but still have a ways to go. I did start a job shopping. This job is excellent for me because it is weight-bearing as well as walking and I do it six days a week for about five hours a day. My muscle mass in my arms is impressive so my chiropractor says! I’m working at getting my hormones in balance as you suggest. I have just taken blood tests this week and waiting to get results back. I do intermittent fasting as well as a very clean keto diet. These past three months I tried carnivore. Waiting for my test to come back. At 5 foot 7 my weight kept climbing to 186. After all my above mentioned regiment I have weighed myself this morning and the scale read 173. There is hope! I would like to get to 160.
    Dr. Childs, you are my go to doctor concerning everything thyroid. You are a fast talker so I always have to go in and slow the speed down. I Get out my thyroid journal with pencil in hand!
    Thanks for all you do!

    Reply

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