The thyroid is a small gland located in the lower part of the neck that secrets hormones, mainly triiodothyronine, or T3; and thyroxine, or T4. When the thyroid malfunctions, hormone levels, metabolism, energy and weight can fluctuate. Exercise can help reduce the symptoms of many thyroid diseases, however, by stabilizing metabolism, weight and energy levels.
There are several conditions that can impede the thyroid's functioning, including hyperthyroid, hypothyroid, goiter, thyroiditis, thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer. Hypothyroid occurs when the thyroid does not release enough hormones, and can result in weight gain, fatigue and depression. Hyperthyroid is characterized by an excess of hormone secretion, which can spur weight loss, nervousness and rapid heartbeat. Thyroiditis is when the thyroid becomes inflamed from bacterial or viral infection. Goiter is the condition of having an enlarged thyroid. Thyroid nodules are solid or liquid filled cysts, lumps, bumps and tumors --- which can be benign or cancerous --- in the thyroid.
Many thyroid diseases require medication, and exercise can compliment treatment. For people with hypothyroidism, exercise can offer a natural antidote to symptoms such as weight gain, depression, muscle loss and low energy levels, according to the website Thyroid Health. Exercise raises your metabolism and increases lean muscle mass, helping you burn more calories. Exercise also boosts mood and energy levels. Hyperthyroidism can cause sleeplessness and low energy levels, both of which may be lessened with regular exercise.
Aerobic exercise can increase hormone production in the thyroid, according to the study "Exercise Intensity and its Effects on Thyroid Hormones," published in Vol. 26 of Neuroendocrinology Letters. Regular aerobic exercise can boost levels of T4 and T3, helping people who have low levels of hormones in the thyroid, such as patients with hypothyroidism or autoimmune diseases affecting the thyroid. Increased hormone production can, in turn, decrease the negative side effects of many thyroid disorders.
The American College of Sports Medicines recommends that adults do moderately intense cardiovascular workouts for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, for maximum health benefits. If you have a thyroid disorder, consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program, as your condition may require less or more exercise and intensity. For thyroid patients, moderately intense aerobic exercises can offer the health benefits of boosting metabolism and mood without stressing the body as much as intense cardio workouts.
Exercise can help alleviate the symptoms of some thyroid conditions, but it is not a substitute for medical treatment. If you have or suspect you have a thyroid disease, see your doctor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment. Medication is often prescribed to combat common conditions such as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, and can alleviate symptoms. If you experience sharp or lasting pain or fatigue while working out, stop immediately and see your doctor. Thyroid patients should be cautious not to exercise excessively, as low energy levels and muscle weakness are common problems for those with thyroid disorders.