Exercises To Try If You Have An Underactive Thyroid

An underactive thyroid can make you feel tired, weak, and depressed. According to the Mayo Clinic, an underactive thyroid is a medical condition called hypothyroidism, which happens when the thyroid doesn't make enough of certain hormones. Hypothyroidism can also cause muscle aches and weakness, stiffness, joint pain and swelling, slowed heart rate, and weight gain. Whether you experience some or all of these hypothyroidism symptoms, the last thing you probably want to do when you have an underactive thyroid is exercise. 

And not all exercises are safe for people living with uncontrolled thyroid disorders. Endocrinologist Christian Nasr, M.D., told the Cleveland Clinic, "For someone who has significant clinical hyperthyroidism, it's as if they are already running a treadmill every day, even in their sleep. Excessive exercise can cause a person to go into heart failure if their thyroid hormones are not under control," said Nasr.

Still, exercise and healthy nutrition are essential for overall well-being and can help keep thyroid symptoms in check, especially if your thyroid condition is well-controlled (per WebMD). Here are some exercises to try if you have an underactive thyroid.

Low-impact aerobic exercises for an underactive thyroid

WebMD recommends that people with an underactive thyroid create an initial exercise routine that focuses on strength training and low-impact aerobic exercise. 

Walking is one of the easiest activities to start with, and you don't need any special gear, equipment, or even a gym membership. Yaroslav Gofnung, M.D., an endocrinologist at Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks, California, says that walking is the best exercise for hypothyroidism "as long as you don't have swelling in your knees or ankles." Slip on a comfortable pair of good-quality shoes and find a path, trail, or sidewalk (via Everyday Health). Additionally, walking boosts your heart rate and can burn up to 280 calories in one hour (per WebMD).

Pilates and yin yoga can help ease back and hip pain, a common symptom of an underactive thyroid. And Paloma Health recommends aerial yoga to build strength and flexibility safely and quickly. Tai chi can strengthen the legs and core while improving balance and flexibility. If you're into group fitness classes, barre fitness combines dance and ballet elements with yoga and Pilates moves for low-impact workouts in a class setting. And water aerobics reduces pressure on joints and stretches stiff joints and muscles in a gentle, low-impact setting. 

Strength training exercises for an underactive thyroid

Igor Klibanov, a personal trainer in Toronto, founder of Fitness Solutions Plus, and author of "Unlimited Progress: How You Can Unlock Your Body's Potential," recommends six specific strength training exercises for people with an underactive thyroid (per Everyday Health). These include one-legged deadlifts, squats, overhead presses, lat pull-downs, push-ups, and rowing.

If you have healthy knees, you can build leg and glute muscles by doing squats, using only your body weight. To do this, begin standing up straight, lower your body, and bend at the hips and knees into a chair position as if you were sitting in a chair. Push up using legs and core to stand up. Repeat. 

Push-ups strengthen and tone arms, and if you can't do a full push-up or series of push-ups, you can modify them by keeping your knees on the ground or doing push-ups against a wall or table instead of on the floor. 

At the gym, the rowing machine combines low-impact cardio with strength training, and the rowing movement is easy on joints. 

Dr. Becky Campbell, board-certified doctor of natural medicine and author of "The 30-Day Thyroid Reset Plan," says cycling is low-impact and easy on joints and raises your heart rate. Take a low-impact cycling class or ride your bike outside to get an extra endorphin boost from being in nature (via Premier Health).