The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the lower portion of the neck which secretes thyroid hormones, such as T3, or triiodothyronine, and thyroxine, or T4. The thyroid gland is primarily in charge of regulating the body’s metabolism. With thyroid disease, however, an underactive or an overactive thyroid gland can release too many or too little thyroid hormones, affecting the overall health and wellness of the body.
What’s the importance of fitness for thyroid disease?
After the thyroid gland malfunctions due to thyroid disease, metabolism, hormone levels, energy and weight can fluctuate. Fortunately, many healthcare professionals have recommended exercise to help control and manage the symptoms of thyroid disease. Exercise, together with a balanced diet, can ultimately help reduce the signs and symptoms of several thyroid diseases by stabilizing weight, energy levels and your metabolism.
Types of Thyroid Diseases
Numerous conditions impede the thyroid’s healthy function, some of which are most notably known as hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, thyroiditis and goiter, as well as the manifestation of thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer.
Hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid gland, is characterized by the excess secretion of thyroid hormones, which may spur rapid heartbeat, nervousness and weight loss. Hypothyroid, or an underactive thyroid gland, is characterized by the decreased secretion of thyroid hormones, which can lead to fatigue, weight gain and depression. Thyroiditis is when the thyroid becomes inflamed from disease. Goiter is the condition of having an enlarged thyroid gland. Nodules are fluid or solid filled bumps, lumps, cysts and tumors, which can be benign or cancerous, from the thyroid. Conditions such as Hashimoto’s thyroid disease and Graves’ disease are autoimmune diseases which cause the body’s own cells to attack the thyroid gland, leading to hyperthyroidism and/or hypothyroidism.
Many thyroid diseases require the use of drugs and medications to properly help balance the amount of thyroid hormones in the body, however, exercise can compliment treatment. Exercise can offer a natural antidote to symptoms such as weight gain, muscle loss, and depression as well as help improve energy levels. Exercise also increases lean muscle mass and raises your metabolism, assisting you to burn more calories.
Exercise and Thyroid Hormones
Aerobic exercise may boost hormone production from the thyroid, according to the research “Exercise Intensity and its Effects on Thyroid Hormones,” published in Vol. 26 of Neuroendocrinology Letters. Aerobic exercise can boost levels of T4 and T3, assisting people who have low levels of hormones in the thyroid, such as patients with hypothyroidism or other autoimmune diseases which affect the thyroid gland. Healthy levels of hormone production can, in turn, reduce the undesired side effects of several thyroid disorders.
The American College of Sports Medicines recommends that adults do reasonably intense cardiovascular workouts for half an hour a day, five days a week, for optimum health benefits. In case you have a thyroid disease, consult your healthcare professional as your illness might require more or less intensity and exercise before beginning a fitness regime. For thyroid patients, intense aerobic exercises may offer the health benefits of boosting metabolism and mood without stressing the body just as much as intense cardio workouts.
Warnings and Risks
Exercise can help alleviate the symptoms of some thyroid diseases, but it is not a replacement for medical treatment and therapy. If you have or suspect you have a thyroid disorder, visit your doctor right away. Medication can be prescribed to fight conditions like hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, and can alleviate symptoms. Should you experience exhaustion and lasting or sudden pain stop treatment immediately and see your doctor. Patients should be cautious to not over-exercise as decreased energy levels and muscle fatigue are common with thyroid disorders.
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By Dr. Alex Jimenez
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