Although symptoms from autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s low thyroid can vary depending on the tissue being attacked. Nevertheless, people with different autoimmune diseases struggle with bouts of fatigue, energy “crashes,” brain fog, inflammation, and pain. These symptoms can sabotage an exercise habit. Or perhaps bouts of these symptoms have prevented you from starting an exercise routine in the first place. However, regular physical movement can be one of the best ways to manage your autoimmune Hashimoto’s condition — you just need to respect your body’s fluctuating tolerance levels.
Autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s low thyroid are conditions in which the immune system attacks and destroys tissue in the body. Many people are able to successfully manage their autoimmunity through functional medicine strategies that include dietary and lifestyle protocols as well as customized supplement plans (different people have autoimmune diseases for different reasons).
Regular exercise is necessary to manage autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s low thyroid for the following reasons:
- It produces anti-inflammatory compounds, such as endorphins and endothelial nitric oxide.
- It facilitates healthy circulation, which oxygenates body tissue, delivers nutrients to tissues, removes debris, and helps detoxify the body.
- It produces chemicals that improve brain function, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Healthy brain function improves immune function.
Autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s require a more careful exercise approach
Autoimmune disease can definitely feel like a curse at times, but many people also report it has made them live more balanced, happier, healthy lives.
Autoimmune disease requires setting boundaries: You can’t abuse your body just to be more productive, or say yes too often, and so on.
When it comes to exercising in a group situation, such as a team sport, group exercise class, or other situation that invites competition, your ego may want to do more than your body can deliver.
You have to pay attention to your body because although exercise can be profoundly anti-inflammatory, exercising too much will make the inflammation worse and could trigger a Hashimoto’s autoimmune flare of your thyroid.
Also, if you’re new to exercise and scared to trigger a thyroid flare, you may be afraid of an exercise class making you look “weak” or “lazy.”
Don’t worry, that’s just your ego. It’s best not to listen to your body instead of your ego to prevent an autoimmune Hashimoto’s flare or excessive inflammation. Also, other people are too absorbed in their own workouts to notice yours.
Challenge yourself enough to reduce inflammation but not so much you increase inflammation
Many people with autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s low thyroid have good results managing their Hashimoto’s by exercising consistently.
This means listening to your body to find your sweet spot zone for autoimmune management — not too little and not too much.
Studies shows high-intensity interval training (HIIT) produces the best benefits for managing inflammation, boosting circulation and oxygenation, and improving brain function.
HIIT requires exercising at your maximum heart rate for short bursts of 30 seconds to 2 minutes, followed by a rest and recover phase. You can repeat that multiple times in a workout.
If you’re new to working out, getting your heart up even just a few minutes a day can HIIT’s benefits. Incorporating HIIT into a longer workout that also includes weight training and some endurance training can boost your workout results.
It can be difficult to figure out how to safely exercise to lower inflammation without going too far and triggering inflammation and a Hashimoto’s flare. Good online resources help you figure out safe heart rate ranges using a monitor, and gyms like Orange Theory Fitness use heart-rate tracking to help you find your custom sweet spot.
Also, don’t worry about being too unfit to do HIIT. One person’s HIIT may be sprinting up some stadium stairs while another person’s HIIT may be doing some push-ups from the knees. Both people experience benefits.
Use these tips to safely exercising with autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s:
- Pursue an activity that is fun and enjoyable. Positivity reduces inflammation while dread and negativity raise it. A group class or social setting may be healthy for the same reason.
- Challenge yourself enough to reach your maximum heart rate.
- However, don’t over challenge yourself and risk triggering a flare. Shoot for being able to exercise again the next day. You will gain the most benefits from a consistent exercise schedule.
- Listen to your body. If you feel so run down you can’t get out of bed, that is not a good day to go work out. If you are a little run down, lower the intensity and/or duration; sometimes a light workout will help you recover faster than not working out.
- On the days you feel good, challenge yourself a little more.
Remember, this is a lifelong condition that needs lifelong attention. Make each day of about the long-range journey as much as that day’s.
Ask my office for more information on managing Hashimoto’s low thyroid and chronic health symptoms.