Thyroid disease is associated with chronic levels of fatigue. Feeling exhausted all the time can interfere with your client’s exercise regime. Exercise has incredible benefits to the body and mind. Therefore, it’s important we find a way to keep our clients exercising regularly. Throughout this article, we will discuss what thyroid is and how exercise can help clients manage their symptoms.
Role of the Thyroid
The thyroid is a small organ found at the front of the neck. Our thyroid is a gland responsible for creating and secreting various substances around the body. These substances are hormones that control metabolism. Two important hormones are T4 and T3. T4 and T3 tell the body how much energy needs to be used. This entire process is overseen by the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is responsible for monitoring and controlling the number of thyroid hormones in the body. If any adjustments need to be made it will release thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH is then transported to the thyroid to make any adjustments regarding hormone release or suppression.
What Is Thyroid Disease?
Thyroid disease prevents the thyroid from creating the optimal amount of hormones. When there’s an optimal amount of hormones our bodies work optimally. Yet, when there’s an imbalance, our metabolism prevents our bodies from functioning properly. Thyroid disease can impact anyone, regardless of their gender or age. However, you’re at a greater risk of developing thyroid disease if you:
- Have a medical condition such as type I diabetes, pernicious anaemia, rheumatoid arthritis, or primary adrenal insufficiency.
- Have a family history of thyroid disease.
- Have had a treatment for a previous thyroid condition or cancer.
- Take medication high in iodine.
- Are older than 60.
- Are a woman.
Thyroid disease can have one of two effects. Not enough thyroid hormone production or too much. Too much thyroid hormone is known as hyperthyroidism. Too little is known as hypothyroidism. Let’s take a closer look at their characteristics.
Hyperthyroidism, also known as an overactive thyroid, occurs when the thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone. Consequently, the body uses too much energy. Using too much energy increases heart rate, therefore causes fatigue, anxiousness, and weight loss. People with significant hyperthyroidism are susceptible to “overheating” during exercise. Excess exercise may lead to heart failure if the client’s thyroid hormones are not controlled.
Hypothyroidism, also known as an underactive thyroid, occurs when the thyroid produces too little thyroid hormone. Contrary to hyperthyroidism, the body doesn’t use enough energy. However, the body will still experience fatigue as well as weight gain, and possibly an intolerance to cold temperatures. People with significant hypothyroidism have a very slow heart rate. Therefore, sudden exercise can catch the heart off guard. It’s advised people with severe hypothyroidism do not exercise until their condition is controlled with medication.
Benefits of Exercise for Thyroid Disease
Alongside appropriate medication, exercise can have significant benefits to your client’s health as well as relieve some of their symptoms.
Hyperthyroidism is linked to poor sleep quality and quantity. Due to increased metabolism, it is common for people living with the condition to develop night sweats. This leads to frequent night disturbances, and thus poor sleep. Exercise promotes good sleep, thus helps improve sleep.
Increased Energy Levels
Exercise releases hormones related to increased energy levels. Since thyroid disease is linked to fatigue, regular exercise can help combat the feeling of tiredness.
People with thyroid disease are more likely to suffer from depression. Exercise releases hormones that increase your mood and improve your sense of self-worth.
Increased Bone Density
Hyperthyroidism is associated with bone loss. Regular strength training exercise promotes bone maintenance and generation. Therefore, bone loss can be prevented, or at least minimised, with regular strength training.
Hypothyroidism reduces your metabolism, making you more susceptible to weight gain. Exercise increases metabolism which in turn helps burn energy. Increased energy burn contributes to weight loss.
Reduced Risk of Heart Disease
People with thyroid disease are at greater risk of developing heart disease. Exercise helps improve the cardiovascular system, which leads to a reduced risk of developing heart disease.
The type of exercise suitable for someone with thyroid disease will vary from person to person. People with thyroid disease may have other issues that restrict their activity. Therefore, it is important to work with the client to find what is suitable for them. It is also important to ensure client’s thyroid conditions are being controlled with appropriate medication. Exercise can be extremely harmful for those with severe hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. If thyroid hormones are well-controlled and the client is healthy, they can participate in regular exercise.
Bansal, Akash & Kaushik, Amit & Singh, Cm & Sharma, Vivek & Singh, Harminder. (2015). The effect of regular physical exercise on the thyroid function of treated hypothyroid patients: An interventional study at a tertiary care center in Bastar region of India. Archives of Medicine and Health Sciences. 3. 244. 10.4103/2321-4848.171913.
Udovcic, M., Pena, R. H., Patham, B., Tabatabai, L., & Kansara, A. (2017). Hypothyroidism and the Heart. Methodist DeBakey cardiovascular journal, 13(2), 55–59. https://doi.org/10.14797/mdcj-13-2-55