The media is filled with messages that say working out is for people who are already fit. But exercise is for everyone, regardless of how you look or your medical history! This might feel hard to believe when you’re living with a thyroid condition. However, with the right support system, you can muscle past the fatigue and make your fitness goals a reality.
The following tips can help you stay fit while you’re managing a thyroid condition.
- Speak with your doctor: Exercise offers many benefits for people living with a thyroid condition. However, you can’t just dive headfirst into a taxing workout routine. Your thyroid hormone levels have to be well managed before you start exercising, especially if you want to participate in high-stress activities. Thyroid symptoms can get worse during a workout if your hormone levels are off balance. Work with a physician to get your thyroid under control, then ask about which activities are best for your specific condition.
- Build your way up: Many people dream of running a marathon or climbing Mount Everest. It takes a while to achieve these goals, especially when you’re living with a thyroid condition. Jumping into a workout routine that’s too intense may cause injury and leave you feeling discouraged. If you’re new to exercise, start with short durations and low-impact activities. Some examples include yoga, tai chi and water aerobics. Once your body is used to an exercise, slowly increase the intensity or duration.
- Stretch on a daily basis: Stretching is important before and after a workout to improve flexibility and prevent injury. For people living with a thyroid condition, a quick stretch session should also become part of your everyday routine—exercise or not. Joint pain and muscle stiffness are common symptoms of thyroid conditions. Some light stretching can ease discomfort as you go about your day. Stretching is even more important for people who recently had thyroid surgery because the procedure often causes stiffness in the neck and shoulders.
- Strength train twice a week: Building muscle mass is crucial for people with a thyroid condition. An under-active thyroid may lead to a slower metabolism, making it difficult to reach and maintain a healthy weight. Strength training can help you lose more weight because muscle tissue burns calories at a faster rate. Remember, you don’t have to be a bodybuilder to stay fit! You can reap the fat-burning benefits of strength workouts with nothing more than some resistance bands and your own body weight.
- Team up with a workout buddy: People dealing with an under-active thyroid might have a more difficult time sticking to a workout routine. Fatigue is the most common symptom, which can make it harder to power through any form of exercise. Working out with a friend can help you stay motivated and make you look forward to your time together. They will hold you accountable for meeting your fitness goals. You could also sign up for a group fitness class to settle into a consistent routine.
- Take your mind off the workout: Most days, a workout is going to feel like work. You might not want to get off the couch, but abandoning your exercise schedule will only set you further back. Find ways to make a mundane session in the gym more enjoyable. For instance, many people like to curate a blood-pumping playlist reserved only for workouts. Try making a rule that says you’re only allowed to watch a certain TV show if you exercise at the same time. Go with whatever keeps you moving!
- Mix up your exercise routine: Anyone would get bored doing the same workout every day. Your body will get used to it, which means you stop making progress. When you factor in a thyroid condition, it becomes even more important to keep your workouts interesting. Trying new activities will help you stay motivated on days when you feel more tired than usual. Join a different class or explore new hiking trails.
- Listen to your body: Monitor how your body responds to new activities. You may have to pause the exercise routine if your thyroid symptoms persist or get worse. This is a clear sign that your thyroid hormone levels have to get under control before you attempt intense workouts. If symptoms are flaring up, your doctor can recommend a lower-impact routine that’s easier on the body.
Healthy people struggle to stick to an exercise schedule, let alone those dealing with a thyroid condition. But this doesn’t mean you have to give up on your fitness goals. Find activities that work for you, then build your way up from there. A healthy body is attainable when you go at your own pace!