Move Your Body
When you're battling the fatigue and depression of hypothyroidism, exercise is probably as tempting as a vacation with pesky in-laws. To top it off, you may have other impediments to exercise. Maybe you were simply never in the habit of being active, or you find exercise boring, inconvenient, or time-consuming.
The truth is exercise is the most potent remedy you have for controlling your weight and relieving you of a thyroid-induced haze. Other perks of exercise include:
On top of that, exercise enhances immunity, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, and triggers the release of endorphins, your body's natural painkillers. Perhaps most important, exercise boosts self-confidence and helps you gain command over your health.
What Happens When You Don't Exercise?
The avoidance of exercise perpetuates a cycle that leads to greater fatigue, less activity, and more weight gain. The less you move, the weaker and smaller your muscles become. And as your muscles get smaller and weaker, your joints will become stiffer and increasingly inflexible, making it even harder for you to get the physical activity you need.
The lack of exercise can also worsen your depression, which is common in hypothyroidism. Feeling depressed, in turn, can make it harder to exercise. Next thing you know, you're trapped in a vicious cycle of fatigue, depression, and a lack of exercise, all of which can lead to unwanted weight gain.
Making exercise a regular habit can be tough for someone unaccustomed to physical activity. To make it a habit, try exercising at the same time every day. You might also want to jot down your exercise time on a calendar, enlist a partner, and set up a reward system for your efforts. Some people find it also helps to record your workouts.
That's why it's critical to always do some physical activity every day, no matter how little or how insignificant it may seem. Even short walks around the block can improve your mood, relieve your fatigue, and help you sleep better. If it's been a while since you exercised, it's best to talk to your doctor first before launching an exercise program.
Build Those Muscles
Chances are, when you think of strength training, you probably think of big, bulky men — or women — with bulging muscles. But in reality, strength training isn't only for the muscle-bound. Building muscle can benefit anyone who wants to maintain vitality, improve conditioning, and build more strength. And having more muscle mass helps ensure that you burn more calories, even at rest.
For people with hypothyroidism, strength training is important because it can help boost metabolism. The extra muscle will help keep your metabolism at a higher rate than it would if you had no muscles. And the higher your metabolism, the less likely you are to gain weight.
Certain types of strength training may be better than others for different people. The strength-training exercises you should know include:
Although these exercises aren't new, they have recently become popular and are ideal for patients with thyroid problems. Pilates combines joint movements with muscle resistance and may involve the use of machines that look torturous but are actually energizing. The movements focus on developing and strengthening your core, which consists of your back and abdomen. Pilates also sometimes uses weights and elastic bands. Some Pilates instructors will provide individual training that can be tailored to a patient with physical impairments.
Yoga is an ancient exercise that began in India 5,000 years ago. The movements are designed to improve flexibility, strengthen muscles, relax nerves, and promote circulation. Some stretches and poses can be quite rigorous. Yoga can be done in a group or individually.
Water Resistance Training
Using water as resistance is another way to build strength, and a good one for people with muscle and joint pain. The water provides natural support for the joints, making a water workout less likely to cause injury and pain.
Whether it's a brisk walk, a long bike ride, or a kickboxing class, anything that gets the heart pumping can strengthen your heart and increase your endurance. When you engage in cardiovascular exercise, you breathe harder, so your lungs are working harder, too. These exercises also improve blood flow; aid in weight loss; and lower blood pressure, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol, the bad cholesterol. In addition, cardio workouts can minimize depression, reduce stress, and improve sleep — all of which help stave off weight gain and perpetuate weight loss.
Won't exercise make me hungrier and cause me to eat more?
It's true, high-intensity exercise definitely does stimulate the appetite, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. But moderate exercise — the kind you're more likely to do when you have hypothyroidism — does not produce the same effects.
For someone who has hypothyroidism, getting a cardiovascular workout might seem too daunting, especially if you're new to exercise. The thought of even driving to a pool might seem too exhausting, much less getting in and swimming laps. That's why it's important to choose your cardio workout carefully. When you're in the throes of serious fatigue, it'll be hard to muster the energy for a rigorous aerobic workout. Instead, look for low-impact activities that you really enjoy. The pleasure of an activity will help ensure that you'll do it again, day after day.
A Word on Walking
One of the best cardio exercises you can do is walking. It's safe, convenient, and easy, and requires no special equipment. It doesn't involve a pricey gym membership, and you can do it virtually anywhere. You don't even need any special training. All you do need is a good pair of walking shoes. Walking is also unlikely to cause injuries that might deter you from exercising in the future.
If you decide that walking is the best exercise for you, then by all means, give it a try. Always wear a good pair of well-fitting shoes that provide adequate support. Replace old shoes that are unevenly worn, which can cause an imbalance in your footing and lead to muscle pain.
When you do start walking, go slowly and resist the urge to walk lengthy distances. If you feel stiff, do some gentle stretches before heading out. Don't push yourself too hard, which can lead to injuries that interfere with workouts. Exercising regularly is more important than getting a single strenuous workout.
The perks of exercise aren't always immediately obvious. One way to track your progress and see the benefits is to keep an exercise diary. Record the date and time, the activity you do, the duration of your workout, and how you feel after you exercise and the rest of the day.
While you walk, make sure to breathe as normally as possible. To stay safe, walk in well-populated areas or carry a cell phone, in case of emergency. If it's hot, carry a water bottle so you can stay hydrated. Finish the walk with a cool-down walk and some gentle stretching.