If you want to get fit and lose weight, you should exercise as hard as you can, for as long as you can, every day, right?
Wrong! Research shows extreme exercise can cause chronic health problems and make you feel worse. (What constitutes over exercise depends on the individual and their fitness level.) Recovery time is as important as the exercise itself. When you have thyroid or hormone disorders, the pitfalls of over exercising could make your symptoms worse.
Over exercising can cause or worsen Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and the following health issues:
- Increased inflammation
- Fatigued adrenals, the stress-handling glands
- More bad gut bacteria
- Leaky gut
- Depleted hormones
- Depressed immunity
- Increased risk of injury
- Bone loss
Many of the issues caused by over exercising stem from inflammation. Although appropriate exercise can be anti-inflammatory and very good for the brain, too much has the opposite effect.
The cellular damage from over exercising triggers a systemic inflammatory response that sets the stage for a host of other health problems.
When you are working to prevent the autoimmune thyroid flares of Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, you want to avoid inflammation as much as possible.
Too much exercise stresses out your body
The damage and inflammation from over exercising is very stressful to the body. Excess stress underlies the burnout, depletion, and increasing weakness often seen with over exercising. Results can be fatigue, worsened thyroid function, depressed immunity, and more.
Over exercising damages gut health
The gut and the bacteria it houses are increasingly being recognized as the seat of the immune system and foundational to our health.
Overdoing exercise has been found to damage the gut wall, causing “leaky gut.” This allows undigested foods, bacteria, yeast, and other pathogens into the bloodstream, where they then trigger inflammation throughout the body.
Overtraining also changes the composition of gut bacteria so there is too much bad bacteria.
Working on restoring and maintaining gut health is critical to managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, so it’s important not to undo that work by over exercising.
How to know if you’re over training
How do you know if your exercise routine is making you unhealthy?
One of the most common symptoms is constant fatigue. Your workout routine should give you more energy, not less. Appropriate exercise boosts chemicals in the body that improve brain function, increase well being, and raise energy. If the opposite is happening to you, you’re overdoing it.
Other symptoms of over exercising include getting sick frequently, loss of muscle mass, gaining body fat, and difficulty recovering from injuries.
If you have been making good headway managing your symptoms, the stress and inflammation from over exercising could cause you to backslide.
What to do if you’re over exercising
If you’re making yourself sick with exercise, the answer isn’t to stop exercising, but to go about your workouts differently. Mainly, give yourself time to recover. This typically means exercising less frequently.
Also, it’s very important to get enough sleep. This is a critical time when your muscles repair and your metabolic system and brain recharge. Sufficient sleep is crucial if you want to stay active and healthy for the long haul.
Ask my office for more advice on how to manage your health not only with exercise but also by addressing the root causes through functional medicine approaches.