Exercise may seem like a bad idea when you feel run down, in pain, or fatigued from Hashimoto’s low thyroid. Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid gland, can make exercise feel impossible at times. However, research shows daily physical activity improves outcomes and helps manage symptoms of autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s compared to not exercising at all. Even the smallest effort is better than nothing.

Exercise guidelines for Hashimoto’s low thyroid

Exercise has many benefits, the most recognizable being that it makes people feel better. Regular exercise is linked with reduced depression and better self-esteem, qualities that alone can lower inflammation associated with Hashimoto’s low thyroid.

Exercise and autoimmunity

Autoimmunity is more a condition of an immune imbalance rather than a matter of which tissue is being attacked. Consider these studies on exercise and other autoimmune diseases:

  • Regular physical activity has been demonstrated to help patients with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, and other conditions dampen symptoms. Also, sedentary patients have higher incidences of autoimmune diseases.
  • Three months of regular aerobic exercise improved outcomes in women with lupus and did not trigger inflammation.
  • Patients with rheumatoid arthritis had less pain and improved joint mobility.
  • Patients with multiple sclerosis showed enhanced mood and mobility.
  • Type 1 diabetes patients showed less neuropathy and could lower meds.
  • Patients with fibromyalgia and other chronic conditions had less pain.

How to exercise when you have autoimmunity

You don’t have to flip tractor tires or climb ropes at a CrossFit gym to get in your regular exercise. If you’re dealing with symptoms and are out of shape, simply walking around the block can be a good start. If you deal with chronic pain, exercising in water or on a recumbent stationary cycle may be suit you best. If you’re feeling good and are up to it physically, daily high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which activates anti-inflammatory mechanisms, can boost your workouts and help manage Hashimoto’s low thyroid.

It’s important to move regularly, but it’s also important is to avoid overdoing it. Overtraining spikes inflammation, can lead to exercise intolerance, and can exacerbate your Hashimoto’s symptoms.

Also, if you have those days where they are bedridden with a flare up of symptoms and can barely function, it’s understandable exercise is not appropriare on those days. Use common sense and self-compassion and ease back into more activity when you feel better.

Why exercise is good for Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

The main benefit of physical activity is that it lowers inflammation and stabilizes immune function.

Physical activity activates regulatory T cells, which are critical for dampening inflammation.

Exercise balances the pro-inflammatory Th1 system and the anti-inflammatory Th2 system to be less inflammatory.

Exercise promotes the release of immune cells called IL-6, which dampen inflammation.

Remember, you don’t have to be an athlete to enjoy the benefits of regular physical activity. Ask yourself what you feel you can reasonably do and begin there. Ask my office for more advice on using physical activity to address Hashimoto’s low thyroid.