If you have Hashimoto’s (or any type of thyroiditis), you know how important keeping up with your workout routine is for your overall health in general. However, although there is currently no reason to believe people with thyroid conditions are at a greater risk for contracting the novel coronavirus, those of us with chronic illness or autoimmune disease should take every precaution to protect and strengthen ourselves and our immune system during this time.
We know exercise helps boost our immune system and, in turn, keeps us healthy and happy when we otherwise might be stressing and restless at home with all the coronavirus craziness going on. But those of us with Hashimoto’s during the coronavirus need to exercise for a number of additional benefits including:
- Reduced inflammation in the body
- Preventing Hashimoto’s “flare-ups”
- Controlled muscle and joint pain
- Regulated energy
Read on to learn a few key ways to exercise at home with Hashimoto’s during the COVID-19 pandemic so you can get through this crazy time stronger, fitter, and better equipped for any challenges life throws your way.
Maintain Muscle Despite the Covid-19 Virus with Hashimoto’s
Depending on where you are in the world, you’re either stuck at home or have limited access to parks, gyms, or other outdoor recreational areas because of coronavirus. If you’re used to the machines at the gym or team sports, it can be tough to suddenly switch to working out from home. However, especially for those of us with Hashimoto’s, it’s critical to do what we can to maintain the muscle we’ve built through the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re especially susceptible to muscle aches and weakness, and inactivity can lead to muscle wasting and atrophy in lockdown.
To combat this, keep up a strength training routine while you quarantine, no matter what. There are ways to get creative if you don’t have weights at home (more on creative solutions later), but even bodyweight strength training exercises will do in a pinch during the coronavirus quarantine.
Some basic strength training exercises include:
- Glute bridges
To maintain muscle, also ensure you’re eating optimal protein per meal which is at least 30 grams of protein. Protein is an especially important component of anyone’s diet with Hashimoto’s, and eating more protein helps boost your metabolism and support your muscles. Protein has a huge impact on how your thyroid functions and your immune system.
Avoid the Coronavirus “Quarantine 15” with Hashimoto’s
Have you noticed yourself getting more “snacky” these days? You’re not alone. With people in quarantine due to the virus, it’s no wonder the dangerous proximity to the pantry has people gaining weight. This combination of grazing plus the lessened physical activity is no doubt leading people to gain the “Quarantine 15” – which is a shame because it can take up to a year to shed weight again (if they ever do). Just think: These types of eating patterns are reminiscent of the period of Thanksgiving through New Year’s, but we’re now having it for a second time during the year because of coronavirus for who knows how much longer.
With Hashimoto’s, we’re already prone to weight gain as it is. Pair that with disruption to our exercise routine and increased inactivity, and we’re in danger of becoming victim to the “Quarantine 15” (or more) because of coronavirus. The snacks we choose also have a direct impact on our thyroid’s ability to produce the hormones needed to stay healthy and strong.
Be extra aware of your “grazing” habits while you stay at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although it can be stressful to feel locked down, don’t try to curb your stress with eating. Instead, exercise, move, get some sun, and keep busy in other ways while you stay at home. The coronavirus pandemic has given us the opportunity to look closer at our habits and learn new things online. Try an online strength class, start a garden, or try a new exercise routine to beat your boredom while you stay at home.
Get Creative When Doing Your Hashimoto’s Workouts During the COVID-19 Outbreak
Obviously, no one expected this COVID-19 pandemic to impact the world as much as it has. But now we’re in it and must make the best of what we have, which means getting creative with our at-home workouts and equipment! If you don’t have an at-home gym or set of weights, no worries. There are ways to MacGyver what you have at home so you can still get the benefits of lifting weights during the coronavirus pandemic.
Personally, I love kettlebells. When first learning a move, they’re easy to navigate and help create natural stability in the body. They even help you improve your shoulder strength and grip stability, which is actually an indicator of longevity. If you don’t have kettlebells, use hand weights. And if you don’t have hand weights, get creative! Try filling a tote bag with bags of flour or filling a backpack with books. Even a can of baked beans can work as hand weights in a lockdown pinch. You can also use things around your home to make your workouts tougher, like a chair for elevated split squats or a book for increasing the difficulty of your core workout. To learn more about how to exercise with kettlebells, check out this blog post. (I even suggest a four-week training program!)
Don’t let a lack of exercise equipment hold you back from getting a workout in during the coronavirus lockdown. Have fun finding creative ways to add weight to your workout – I’ve even seen videos floating around of people working out with their babies or small kids as their weights! If you’re a parent who suddenly has lots of time with your kids, try working out with them, asking them to time you, or challenging them to do some weightless exercises alongside you. These memories may be the ones they cherish most coming out of COVID-19.
Create Progressive Overload with Hashimoto’s
Progressive overload is when you gradually increase the stress placed on the musculoskeletal and nervous systems through strength training. It can happen in four ways:
- Increasing volume
- Increasing frequency
- Increasing tension
- Increasing intensity
Progressive overload is important for building strength and muscle, but if you do it too quickly you won’t recover and you could get injured. The way you build muscle and become more fit is by carefully increasing stimulus (progressive overload) without hindering your body’s ability to recover. To maintain this balance, there are a few key things to consider with a progressive overload when you have Hashimoto’s.
- Change one training variable at a time: Don’t increase volume, frequency, tension, and intensity all at once.
- Increase volume before intensity: Go up in repetitions before you go up in resistance (weight).
- Mind your reps: Those of us with Hashimoto’s do better with more resistance and less volume. Do what you can to add progressively add resistance instead of just doing 100s of repetitions.
- Listen to your body: Increasing your progressive overload by way of frequency and volume is something to watch out for with Hashimoto’s. Although this likely won’t be an issue for most of us in quarantine lockdown, repetitive motions and overexercising can do more harm than good and deplete your body of its valuable supply of the T3 hormone.
Stay Motivated Through the Coronavirus Pandemic with Hashimoto’s
I get it. If you used to exercise outside or in the gym with your trainer or gym buddies before coronavirus, working out from home is definitely not the same and takes some getting used to. But don’t get discouraged; your health is so important right now and exercise is what’ll keep you sane, strong, and supported physically and mentally through the coronavirus pandemic lockdown.
To stay motivated, set goals for yourself, and plan your exercise into your day through the coronavirus pandemic. Even if you’re thinking, “No worries, my calendar’s free and clear!” set an alarm, keep the yoga mat rolled out in the living room, or leave your weights where you can see them – anything to serve as a reminder. If you haven’t experienced this already, you’d be surprised how easy it is to slip out of your routine and slip into laziness, snacking, and inactivity like many already have since the coronavirus outbreak weeks ago. Get inspired by YouTube videos, find an accountability partner, or maybe even set up a challenge among friends.
By staying motivated and positive, you’ll emerge from the COVID-19 lockdown healthy, happy, and ready to get back in action, and you’ll help prevent any Hashimoto’s “flare-ups” along the way.
Suffering from Hashimoto’s or another form of Thyroiditis?
If you’re suffering from Hashimoto’s or another form of thyroiditis, the stay-at-home orders due to coronavirus are no doubt making an impact on your health and fitness. If you need support in losing weight and getting your energy back, check out my free Thyroid Strong guide. In it, you’ll discover:
- How to avoid fatigue and weight gain
- How to workout without burn-out
- Hashimoto’s-specific exercise tips for maintaining muscle
Your health is more important than ever. Take charge of your Hashimoto’s and take a stand for a healthy, pain-free life today!
In Good Health,
Dr Emily Kiberd