Hypothyroidism, or having an underactive thyroid, can cause many symptoms like fatigue, joint pain, heart palpitations, and depression. The condition also reduces overall metabolism, making those with hypothyroidism more prone to weight gain. Exercise can relieve many of the symptoms associated with hypothyroidism and can improve cardiovascular health and muscle mass.

If left untreated, having low levels of thyroid hormones can reduce cardiac fitness. Those with hypothyroidism are also at a greater risk of ventricular arrhythmias, or a rapid heart beat. In addition to medications, exercise also plays a key role in strengthening the cardiovascular system.

Regularly participating in activities like running, walking at a brisk pace, or playing a sport can improve cardiac health. The related mood-boosting benefits can also relieve other hypothyroidism symptoms including depression and fatigue.

Those with hypothyroidism frequently experience muscle and joint pain. Low-impact activities that minimize stress on joints such as the knee, hip, or back may be easier to do as opposed to more strenuous activities. Some options include yoga, Pilates, walking, swimming, and biking.

Because hypothyroidism lowers your body’s resting metabolic rate, people with this condition are more liable to gain weight and suffer secondary problems caused by obesity. Building muscle through strength training can counteract these effects.

Some research shows that obesity can reduce a person’s response to exercise. These individuals may find it harder to develop skeletal muscle proteins in response to exercise. The reasons for this are unclear, but it’s possible that underlying hormonal deficiencies, including hypothyroidism, may be to blame.

Having hypothyroidism doesn’t mean you can’t participate in competitive sports or train for a race or marathon. But, a recent study of highly-trained male athletes found that it may be more difficult to do any kind of high-intensity exercises. Athletes may need to adapt their training plans to let their bodies recover from this effect.

Exercise isn’t a substitute for hormone therapy to treat hypothyroidism. Some studies even suggest that in spite of prescribed medication, those with hypothyroidism may experience greater discomfort during exercise. Still, when practiced safely, many forms of exercise offer specific benefits to individuals with hypothyroidism. Always discuss your exercise plan and goals with your doctor before starting a new routine or regimen.