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Are High-Intensity Workouts Damaging Your Thyroid?

Some tips to keep your body moving without harming your health.
Are High-Intensity Workouts Damaging Your Thyroid?
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Have you ever left the gym feeling horrible after a workout? You watch your friends leave feeling energized and ready to conquer the day but you feel like you need to climb into bed because the exhaustion and muscle weakness is overwhelming. 

Many people with hypothyroidism struggle with exercise and don’t understand what causes such adverse reactions.


When you have a thyroid disease, high-intensity exercise may cause damage to your body, and too much exercise can make you feel worse.  Exercises such as running, high-intensity cardio, etc. can cause stress to the body, including the thyroid when you are already struggling with hypothyroidism. When we are under any type of mental or physical stress including exercise, we produce cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Cortisol is what helps our bodies deal with stress, but many thyroid patients have over stressed adrenals and the addition of high intensity workouts can cause cortisol to overproduce which inhibits thyroid function that in turn makes you feel worse.


Exercise is still crucially important, but making adjustments to your exercise routine can be helpful in dealing with the crash that comes after a workout.  Here are seven low-intensity workouts that are great for your thyroid, get your body moving, and leave you feeling great.


Yoga is a fantastic choice for people with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s Disease. It helps build muscle strength, improves flexibility, boosts immunity, helps with depression, and can increase your heart rate. Yoga is also great for the joints and helps those that suffer from inflammation.

According to a survey published by The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health the majority of adults that practiced yoga, said that it helped in specific wellness related areas including better mental health and a reduction in stress levels.



One of the biggest advantages of swimming is that it works your entire body at the same time. When done correctly, you can build muscle, increase strength, and raise your heart rate without causing stress to your body or damage to your joints. Different strokes build different muscles, so swimming could be an effective way to achieve muscle tone. Due to the recreational aspect of swimming, it may also help with relaxation and decreasing stress and anxiety.



Walking protects your heart from disease, loosens your muscles, and increases metabolism which is so important for those with hypothyroidism.  While walking may not seem like the most interesting option, there’s so many benefits to taking a stroll around your neighborhood. It can help with depression and if done during the day, you also can get your dose of vitamin D. Many hypothyroidism patients also suffer from vitamin deficiencies including the sunshine vitamin. So, turn on some tunes or your favorite podcast and get walking!

Elliptical Machine


Elliptical machines are a great way to increase heart rate and get the exercise that your body needs without the harmful impact on your joints that high-impact exercise can cause. Another advantage is that elliptical machines can typically be pedaled front and backward, plus most machines have moveable hand grips which means that you can work many more muscles than by walking alone. If you are looking for a great workout that is easy on your thyroid, but will help sculpt your body, the elliptical machine may be the way to go.



Cycling has many great advantages. It’s a low impact exercise, plus it works many muscles at the same time. In addition, it can help strengthen bones, reduce anxiety, decrease body fat, and may protect from heart disease. Another perk of cycling is that is can be done outside on a beautiful day, or indoors on a stationary bike. 



Pilates is very similar to yoga, but it concentrates on your body’s core. It is excellent for improving flexibility and circulation, plus it increases abdomen strength. If you are wanting to tone your body this may be the perfect exercise for you. Pilates may also be helpful for those that struggle with brain fog and lack of focus by bringing an awareness to your breathing. Becoming mindful of your body and breathing will help achieve better mental clarity.

Water Aerobics


Water aerobics is a fantastic way to burn calories, improve joint health, and tone muscle in a cool and enjoyable atmosphere. Plus, there are so many options available now including Zumba, water yoga, and even kickboxing. If you are trying to exercise but be gentle on your joints, then water aerobics could be the perfect solution.


These seven exercises are just a few ideas to help you get moving and add exercise to your day while also being gentle on your body. Healing from hypothyroidism requires multiple steps and by adding low-intensity exercise to your daily routine, you are improving your chances of overcoming and healing from your disease.  


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Julia Walker, RN, BSN

Clinical Nurse

Julia Walker, RN, BSN, is a clinical nurse specializing in helping patients with thyroid disorders. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Regis University in Denver and a Bachelor of Arts in the History of Medicine from the University of Colorado-Boulder. She believes managing chronic illnesses requires a balance of medical interventions and lifestyle adjustments. Her background includes caring for patients in women’s health, critical care, pediatrics, allergy, and immunology.

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