Exercise and TSH

Hi everyone, I joined a gym on 01/03 and have been doing both cardio and weights most days and have to say whilst I still havent lost an ounce it has helped greatly with fatigue levels and general mood - gotta love those endorphins and metabolism boost. It is also noticeable that on days I dont do anything I am knackered, cold and the fog descends again

I am due a retest next week and I had a sudden thought - exercise and building muscle boosts metabolism (temporarily at least) - how does this affect the pituitary glands reading of the situation. ie if my metabolism is raised will this cause the pituitary to drop my TSH even though the raise is not from thyroid hormone.

Is the pituitary clever enough to tell the difference, would I be better off knocking the exercise on the head for a couple of days beforehand or will it make no difference. I know exercise is a good thing but I dont want to be tied to 90 mins a day forever if I want to feel vaguely decent (not unless substantial weight loss is part of the deal).

Any thoughts welcome as I dont even know whether the pituitary reacts quite quickly to changes or whether it takes a while. I hope this makes sense.

46 Replies

  • Interesting question. I hope you get some responses.

    The pituitary does not react quickly, TSH can take a while to change. But, it's not the metabolism that changes the TSH, it's the levels of T4 and T3 - especially T3. And, as exercising the way you are doing, uses up your T3 very quickly, and you aren't able to easily replace it, it could be that your TSH will be raised. But, I don't really have an answer to this question. Please post the results when you get them, because I would be interested in seeing them. :)

  • Will do, It may not work for every one and when I go back to shift work after 2 weeks break It may be a different story but I am feeling better than I have since diagnosed a year ago even with a TSH of 5.1 (0.3-4.2) at last test in Jan!

  • I wonder how shift work affects thyroid hormone. It can be disastrous for cortisol. Not that most people have a choice, if you're working shifts it is probably the nature of your work, but maybe worth knowing.

  • I did pose a question previously on this subject in relation to timing of tests as I am aware TSH is linked to circadian rhythm.

    Despite googling I could not get an answer (or one I could recognise) to what happens to circadian rhythm in relation to rotating shift work and how long it takes the rhythm and corresponding metabolic processes to change. I have noticed you posting links to some good articles so maybe you can clear this up for me now my brain is working a bit better🤞

    I do rolling shifts 2x7am 2x2pm 2x nights 4 days off. I split my sleep in two on nights so with the exception of the 2 early shifts I get up at around mid-day every day (Im a night owl) and take my Levo when I get up.

    It seems logical to me that my regular wake time of mid-day has moved my body's timing by about 5 hours later than for 'normal' early risers so 7 am is the middle of the night to my body and would be at the corresponding point in the circadian rhythm ie 2am

    If I am over thinking this or have got completely the wrong end of the stick please feel free to tell me to get a grip 😁

  • My utterly uninformed guess would be that if the waking/sleeping cycle is always changing (even if it is a pattern) your circadian rhythms are always lagging behind. I googled it and was going to post some of my famous well-chosen links :-) but so many of them looked interesting and I am on my way to bed so I am going to leave the google results here and come back tomorrow and read the best-looking ones. google.com/search?q=how+doe...

    This is of special interest to me at the moment not only because I have a lifelong issue w sleep avoidance but also because I'm abroad and when I get back to the UK I will have, as always, the mother of all jet-lags to deal w. I am a night owl like you and the east -> west journey is a killer for me.

    Just out of curiosity, do you have any idea if many of your fellow shift workers are night owls as well? I did the night shift at a Christmas shelter for about 10yrs and I have a theory about night owls being better at this sort of thing. I guess the lark types can handle early shifts better? And can go from one early shift to an even earlier one? Maybe it is just horses for courses.

  • Most of my colleagues seem to be larks and really struggle on nights. I am the opposite I often do earlies on about 4 hours which is a killer especially now, but I get at least a smug 8 on nights, I just split it into 2 chunks which seems to work for me otherwise I finish rest days still wanting to sleep all day - I am the only person I know who has over slept for a night shift 🤣

  • This is going to sound odd- but unroasted sesame oil- just put some inside your nostrils before flying- just a little. This is supposed to help. Ayurveda. Can't remember off top of head what else. Also great for oil pulling and self massage (can add in EO's for the massage).

  • My understanding is that in many ways your circadian rhythm doesn't change. That only sunlight can have much of a change in it.

    This is one of the reasons night shifts are bad for you, that your body gets used to it in some ways, but other parts of your body will always be expecting you to sleep at night and be awake in the day. So you're pulled in both directions at once.

  • Thank you for this interesting info grey goose!! I use to own a gym and love fitness, however for a few years now ( since hypothyroid) I have been so exhausted and exercise on a good day will put me down for a few days of recovery. But my tSH is quite low now that I take NDT and my t3 is low and hard to bring up. So if exercise burns up t3 quickly, it makes sense that I crash. This is new to me. Thank you!

  • On holiday in France 3 yrs ago I cycled 30 miles per day@ 15 mph, in the morning, in the evening I occasionally popped in a fast 15 miler. I was 60 at the time and 12.5 stone. When we came home I did a 10 mile time trial in just under 30 minutes, I was in the top ten women, well I was 10th. Now I haven't the steam to climb the stairs. I worked very long shifts all my working life, getting people out of bed, giving breakfast, lunch, dinner. Bathing all patients and sleeping in one or another patients house to keep them safe throughout the night. During this time I found personal trainers, an Olympic judo team of four and did 1 hour at least ever other day for 4 yrs. I didn't loose an ounce however I became stronger.I hadn't been diagnosed hashimoto hypothyroid and was on Cytalapram for 7yrs. Sleep still evades me despite being worn out doing very little.

  • Taking any form of T3 will drop your TSH to rock bottom as it knows you are getting your T3 from elsewhere and you FT4 can go down to halfway if you are getting enough T3 so hold off the exercise to see if it brings the FT 3 up.

    I'm unsure what to do if you are on shifts but logic tells me to always take it at the same time as your body needs a regular input. I think that if it doesn't arrive on time it may be wanting to hang on to want it can rather than releasing it for your body to work with. That's what logic is saying but whether that theory is correct I've no idea.

  • I was diagnosed hypo in 2006 and worked shifts of , early late and night shift and always took my meds at the same time every night and coped. It wasn't great but I managed. When I started doing nights I did wonder about taking my lio at 10 pm thinking that it would make me want to sleep but I didn't.

    Jo xx

  • Hi greygoose, I dont know if you saw it but I did a follow up post with the new results, they are also on the bottom of my bio, the change was quite dramatic!

    The new post was imaginatively called exercise and tsh new blood results 😀

  • Great that you're feeling up for it, good for you :)

    I walk & go to hubby's Gym every night (I switch the lights off & lock up)

    "every little helps"!

    J :D

  • Intense exercise can effect thyroid hormone and tsh (in male athletes): nel.edu/26-2005_6_pdf/NEL26...

  • Well I am not an athletically trained male in any sense and I only do about 30 mins cardio but if I read that right then if anything it will raise my TSH rather than lower it I am already slightly above range at last test on TSH 5.1 (0.3-4.2) and mid on FT4 at 16.7 (12-22), I wont know FT3 til test next week.

  • I think if it makes you feel good it must be doing you some good and you can always switch it up (or down) as needed. Good for you. :-)

  • As long as I dont give myself a false low TSH for my NHS test next week I am happy and it doesnt look like it should. my Dr is not bad but didn't want to accidentally give them any excuse to muck things about before we get FT's 4 and 3 up towards the top end, I want to exercise because I enjoy it and its good for me in general rather than have to rely on it (or NHS can prescribe it and pay my gym fees 🤔🤔)

  • That study was done on athletes at 90% capacity. I think marathoners and similar hardcore types run this risk but if you're more of a casual gym-goer (not trying to do you down :-) just not sure how else to put it) I think you'll be fine. Stick to more low-key activity. No sprinting. :-)

  • A fast walk is my limit or some steady rowing, running is a dirty word🙈

  • Lol.

  • Adrenal? Is your adrenaline carrying you through exertions and then causing the crash afterward? It's an all-too-familiar experience with me.

  • I havent dipped my toe in the world of adrenals yet! I dont think I am crashing from that as it is taking too long to happen. I am fine on the days when I can exercise shortly after I get up and have an increased sense if wellbeing for the rest of the day, slowing down again towards bed time. Days I dont or cant fit in a work out I wake up feeling rubbish and stay that way!

  • It's all so complicated!!! I think that we're all different ie we all have a slightly different set of features in terms of which aspects of our body are working well, and which are not.

    Since having thyroid problems (hypothyroid as a result of two partial thyroidectomies), I've gradually realised that I feel best when I exercise regularly. The less I do, the worse I feel.

    In the last couple of years, I've discovered that my body isn't good at converting T4 medication to T3. So my interpretation of this is that exercise stimulates conversion in the muscles.

    This could be wrong, but let's face it, since none of the "experts" are able to analyse what's going on, all we can do is work out what works for our own situation!

    Stick with what works!!!

  • I seem to have the same exercise response as you, I started it to at least try and stop my weight continually rising Im 5ft3 and 17 stone, the improved feeling of wellbeing was completely unexpected, I expected to feel more tired. Dont get me wrong I still fall on my face after being awake for more than 12 hours tho!

    I decided to do 3 days on and 1 day off and after 2 weeks I felt noticeably worse on the days I dont so I now try and do something even a short brisk walk if I cant fit in a full session.

  • Sounds good - doing what we can, when we can, is good. The worst is doing nothing!

  • One other thing - I take a little more thyroxine when I do long cycle rides, otherwise I don't have enough energy to get home. It's really all trial and error.

  • Hi dolphin 5

    Just been directed to this post as I am planning a long distance bike ride and having reverted to just T4 medication from a short trial of T4 and 12.5 mg of T3 I'm wondering if I should use a bit of T3 towards the end of a long day in the saddle, what do you think?

  • It's hard for me to advise you, as we're all different. All I can do is tell you what I've done, and then you can experiment to see what works for you.

    In the days when I took only T4, I took 125mcg daily, and an extra 25mcg for long rides - unless I did a week or so of daily rides on a holiday. Then I took the extra 25mcg every other day. Taking the extra every day gave me the runs, and was clearly too much!!

    All that worked well for me, but then I had a couple of years of doctors trying to make me drop my dose. In the end, I managed to get to an endocrinologist, and after a long battle, he suggested that I take some T3.

    After some trial and error, I now continue to take 125mcg T4 every day, as well as 12.5mcg T3. The for long bike rides I add an extra 6.25mcg. So instaed of a quarter am and another quarter pm, I take half in the morning and a quarter at night.

    Initially I used to take some T3 out with me, to take at lunch time if I needed it, but I've never felt the need. I have tried to take 150mcg T4 and the extra quarter of T3, but I seem to feel more tired when I do that.

    It's all so difficult to work out, and I'm pretty sure that none of it is as good as having a thyroid gland (mine was removed). If you still have a thyroid gland, then things might work in a slightly different way for you.

    Good luck, anyway!

  • Thanks for sharing that, I will bear it in mind as I'm getting back on my feet after a couple of bad months. Need to get a bit of training in before I set off so will consider all that you say and see if I need to adjust when I'm using up more energy than normal.

    I've got an electric bike now so maybe that will do instead of the T3 !

  • I've got zero clue about the science stuff but I do weights and cardio(not running), and it doesn't seem to affect my levels.

    Wishing you well.

  • I read somewhere, but now can't remember where, that hypothyroid people get a greater buzz from exercise than euthyroid folks. Exercise makes you feel good and energetic in a bigger way than it does for others. This chimes with my experience, as I've had immediate positive benefit later in the day or next day at several different levels of hypo. What I don't know is whether this is a good thing, or whether it's causing damage elsewhere! I've also heard, more reliably, that exercising with hypo has a greater risk of injury, because the muscles are not being provisioned with energy in an efficient way (that's pretty much a definition of hypo - your energy production engine is missing a puzzle piece). This makes them unable to deal as well with the rigors of exercise, and less able to constantly micro-tear and grow, which is what needs to happen to increase capacity.

    My personal conclusion from all this is that if it feels good and I want to do it, I do it. But I go very gently and do not set goals to increase capacity all the time like I did when I was well. And do accept that it may turn out I am making a big mistake by exercising at all. Whereas when I was well I knew it was the right thing to do :p

  • I discovered the muscle issues the hard way by tearing my calf muscle doing a step up with hand weights. It went as both legs went fully straight at the top and caused much swearing 👿👿. After some googling I found that one of the old diagnostic tests for hypothyroid was the achilles tendon reflex. The muscle contracts quickly when the tendon was hit but there was a noticeable lag in the relaxation time of the muscles of hypo patients. This would seem to fit with my calf muscle contracting for the load bearing step up but not relaxing quick enough as my knee straightened. there was no warning or any feeling of strain before it happened and the gym staff could not understand it either! I am sure if it affects one muscle this way it does others so I am also cautious and increase reps rather than weights for now (and avoid the stepups!)

  • I learn new things here all the time. Back when I was running I injured my knee not while exercising but when climbing the stairs my knee overextended and kicked off the current period of unwellness. (A civilised but not insignificant amount of alcohol had been consumed and I think I just wasn't paying attention.) I was told by my acupuncturist (who is also a physio) my joints are too mobile but could this be from poor muscle tone (also a hypo symptom)?

  • It certainly sounds feasible. It might be a case that you do have very mobile joints but situation is being exascerbated by poor muscle tone and the slip was the last straw. A non hypo colleague improved her loose knee with cycling as it seemed to exercise the muscles in the right directions without too much load bearing or opportunity to extend in interesting and painful directions. Of course even civilised amounts of alcohol are frowned upon whilst trying this method 😜😜

  • Yes, my partner's physio recommended cycling for his dicky knees.

    And it would seem like you could consume civilised amounts of alcohol when cycling (stationary cycling surely?!) but maybe that was not specifically recommended.

    Look at the French, all that cycling and drinking wine, how bad can it be?? :-)

  • Wow, Phoenix605, you're saying this at exactly the right time for me, because I pulled a muscle in a very similar way last week. I was hurrying to cross a road, and when I got to the other side realised something had pulled in my calf and I had really reduced range of motion in my ankle and had to limp home.

    I've never made the connection before with the Achilles reflex thing. I actually always have trouble with my calves as they get very tense, since long before I knew I was hypothyroid. So I wonder if that is all part of it.

    Quite early on in my illness I was reading that muscles require energy to relax just as they do to contract, which explains lying in bed at night stuff as a board wondering why if you're so tired you can't just flop...

    Really interesting, thanks!

  • The nice young fit bit of eye candy at the gym suggested using a roller after I did my calf. If you havent heard of them, They are a firm foam cylinder in various textures an d sizes, you sit on the floor with your arms behind you for support and cross your ankles with the roller under your calf raise your bum and rock backwards and forwards so the roller moves over the affected area. If you are a lightweight press down as you roll otherwise your own body weight is enough. They had them in lidl the other week and are not very expensive. You can use them for other problem areas too and seem to do the trick if you have a tight area might be worth a try before bed 😁

  • Hehe, did you try it out? Was it good? I've heard of these things, and I got some balls to do a similar thing with, and I'm not strong enough to lift myself and wiggle around these days. I will keep it in mind, though :)

  • I did have a try but I needed a proper demonstration first though 😛😛. If the balls dont suit but you still have good grip I believe there is a roller version you can hold and push against the muscles

  • Oh yes, I hadn't thought of one of those! I'll have to try and find one :)

  • If you struggle I would have thought a large non splintery rolling pin would do the job, the type that swivels on its handles, might want to avoid any bony bits tho 😱

  • Also, I agree with GG that if anything changes it will be T3 getting used up. I'll be curious to find out if the change does show up in your blood tests. In theory as we increase activity levels dosage should need to increase.

    You mention your TSH is around 5, and your freeT4 is in the lower part of the range. The rule of thumb is the TSH should be close to 1, and many people need to go lower to feel well, and the freeT4 should be in the top quarter. For your range that's around 19.5+ So you've got room for a quite substantial increase, and would probably feel quite a bit better.

  • The only T3 reading I have is a medichecks one from Sept last year, I am having it redone along with essential vits next week and will post for advice, my GP did say I would need further increases when I had my last NHS test in Jan. (I did a separate post re dose increase frequency rather than have 2 questions in one😀)

  • That's interesting silver avocado. I have TSH under 1 and T4 at the top of the range, where ideally should the T3 level be in this case ? And do you know if it's a good idea to take a bit extra T3 during extended periods of exercise...I'm planning a long distance bike trip ?

  • FreeT3 should also be close to the top, in the top third. T3 is the active hormone, so freeT3 is the closest relation to symptoms out of the three things in the basic thyroid panel.

    Some people do take extra T3 when they are more active. Or even adjust their dose through the year, having more in winter. But I think you can only figure it out with your own trial and error.

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