How Bob Harper’s Exercise Routine Killed His Thyroid and (Almost) Killed Him

By |2019-05-10T11:49:04-07:00May 24th, 2017|Fitness, Hypothyroidism|13 Comments

Can too much exercise really kill you and your thyroid?

The short answer is, YES

I think Bob Harper is a perfect example, and I’m going to show you how it all happened in just a minute.

If you’re not familiar with Bob Harper, he’s a celebrity personal trainer who is featured on the popular reality TV weight-loss series “The Biggest Loser”. Unfortunately, most who lose weight on the show end up gaining it back.

Bob Harper thyroid

On the outside, he appeared to be the epitome of health.

Yet, on the inside his health was deteriorating.

In February 2017, he was working out at a New York City gym where he suffered a major heart attack and died before being revived and kept alive.

At the age of 51, he was not even in the highest risk category for heart disease.

So, how can someone who’s not high risk and appears to be in pristine health suddenly drop dead from a heart attack?

The answer has everything to do with exercise and your thyroid.

Yet, that’s not what Bob Harper would have you believe.

Bob Harper’s Health Catch-22

Now that Bob Harper is on the road to recovery, everyone wants to know how such a horrific thing could happen to someone who is supposed to be so healthy.

Specifically, everyone wants to know if exercise is what almost killed him.

His initial answer created a public relation nightmare and a Catch-22 (no win situation).

You see, Bob Harper has a history of high cholesterol.

High cholesterol is a well researched and proven symptom of hypothyroidism.

Without adequate thyroid hormone (T3), you can’t convert cholesterol into pregnenolone and all of your heart-protective hormones.

(NOTE: Want to learn why everything you think you know about cholesterol is dead wrong? Take a look at this post on “Why “Bad Cholesterol” Is Essential to Your Thyroid”.)

Instead of accepting that his heart attack could be related to the stress of exercise… he initially blamed his heart attack on “genetics”.

He has a family history of heart disease, so it was eventually going to get him too, right?

Unknowingly, he forced himself into a no-win situation.

On one hand, if you admit that exercise is a stress that can inhibit your thyroid and cause a heart attack, you’re telling millions of people that… exercise can kill you.

On the other hand, if you use the “genetics” excuse, then you’re telling millions of people it doesn’t matter how much you exercise or how healthy you eat… your genetics is going to kill you anyway.

Either way you look at it… you’re dead.

This created a huge public relations nightmare for Bob Harper.

What do you do when you need a bunch of smoke and mirrors to get yourself out of trouble?

You go on the Dr. Oz show, of course.

(NOTE: Want to learn how to protect your thyroid from exercise and instead use it to benefit your thyroid health? Click here to learn more.)

Your Thyroid, Lipoprotein(a), and Dr. Oz

It’s the easiest way to get yourself out of trouble.

Blame the problem on something else that most people have never heard of.

So, last month Bob Harper appeared on the Dr. Oz show to reveal the new culprit behind his heart attack… lipoprotein(a).

You can see the clip here.


Yet, what’s even more important to understand is that just like elevated cholesterol…

lipoprotein(a) levels are directly influenced by your thyroid function.

Here’s a study showing that thyroid hormone replace therapy significantly lowers your lipoprotein(a):

Effect of thyroid hormone replacement on lipoprotein(a), lipids, and apolipoproteins in subjects with hypothyroidism.

“RESULTS: After levothyroxine treatment, the mean concentration of thyrotropin decreased from 91.4 to 3.7 microIU/mL, and free thyroxine increased from 0.5 to 1.2 ng/ dL. Total cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL-C, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and apolipoprotein A-I and B-100 decreased after thyroid hormone replacement therapy. Lp(a) levels also decreased significantly (P<0.05) after treatment, from a mean of 33.4 to 25.6 mg/dL.”

Here’s another study that shows (just like cholesterol) that lipoprotein(a) levels are directly correlated to your thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH):

Relationship between Lipoprotein(a) and Thyroid Hormones in Hypothyroid Patients

“Results: The results of this study showed that levels of HDL-cholesterol were significantly decreased (p<0.001), whereas those of other lipid parameters and Lp(a) levels were found to be significantly increased (p<0.001) in hypothyroid patients as compared to those in controls. Correlation study revealed a significant positive correlation between Lp(a) and TSH levels in hypothyroid patients.”

As you might expect, high levels of lipoprotein(a) are also found in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis sufferers:

Lipoprotein(a) increase associated with thyroid autoimmunity.

“In conclusion, our results in males and postmenopausal females with T-Abs and euthyroid show an association between thyroid autoimmunity and increased levels of Lp(a)”

I could go on, but I think you get the point.

Bob Harper’s real problem isn’t his cholesterol, genetics, or lipoprotein(a)… it’s his poor thyroid health.

And it has a lot to do with exercise.

The Truth – Over-Exercising and Your Thyroid

The truth is that too much exercise can kill you.

Yet, we live in a world where more is always better. So, people continue to kill themselves in the gym, wrongly believing they are healthier for it.

What’s important to understand is that exercise is a stress to your body.

And too much exercise can significantly impair your thyroid function.

As Dr. Raymond Peat explains… Exercise increases the rate at which your body breaks down thyroid hormone. So, your body compensates/adapts by slowing metabolism and assuming a hypothyroid state.

In other words, excessive exercise has the follow effects:

  1. Lowers your blood sugar.
  2. Increases stress hormone production.
  3. Lowers thyroid hormone (T3) levels.

Chronically over-exercising is dangerous.

The more you over-exert yourself, the more you suppress your thyroid.

The more often you do it, the more hypothyroid you become.

The more hypothyroid you become, the more prone you are to dying from heart disease.

How much exercise is too much?

It largely depends on your current thyroid health.

For example, hypothyroid sufferers can’t store glycogen well in their livers and muscles.

They’re prone to low blood sugar and high levels of thyroid-suppressive stress hormones.

So, it doesn’t take much exercise to push you over the edge.

But, there is something you can do about it.

There are ways to protect yourself from the stress of exercise and actually use it to benefit your thyroid health.

thyroid exercise

Click here to learn more about how to exercise safely with hypothyroidism.

About the Author:

Tom Brimeyer is the founder of Forefront Health and the creator of the popular Hypothyroidism Revolution program series. Specializing in thyroid and metabolism disorders, Tom's work has impacted over 50,000 people spanning more than 60 countries. Tom is also a highly sought after practitioner who runs a successful health consulting practice where he continues to help clients across the globe to take back control of their lives from their devastating health conditions.


  1. Terry Haston May 25, 2017 at 6:51 am - Reply

    Thanks for the article..

    What about the other end of the spectrum which is a completely sedentary lifestyle? Some days I sit at the computer for 8-10 hours, then I sit and watch TV until bed.. the way I understand it, being sedentary is very bad for health in that we need movement and sitting for long periods can be detrimental to health.. so there must be a happy medium right? such as getting up from the chair and walking around, stretching, using a lymph node roller thingy, etc? I still haven’t checked out your exercise program but I plan to soon. I guess what I’m getting at is I’m trying to figure out what the happy medium is between sedentary and too much exercise and I know that can be tough because each of our situations is unique..

    • Tom Brimeyer May 25, 2017 at 7:09 am - Reply

      Hi Terry, the article itself isn’t promoting a sedentary lifestyle. It’s explaining the effects of over-excising on thyroid function. Extreme workouts have become a very popular trend for weight loss, however, in most cases they are causing more harm than good. Hypothyroid sufferers are very prone to the dangers of exercise. It’s about exercising safely.

      • Kathy H May 25, 2017 at 7:38 am - Reply

        Tom – I’ve gone more old school thinking in my approach to exercise — and your exercise thought leadership contributed to that way of thinking. I keep myself moving on and off throughout the day — including walking as part of my morning and evening commute. When walking, I let my body choose the pace and that means turtle slow some days and fast (for me) other days. As someone following your program, I’m also gaining progressively more energy to do things during the day which contributes to keeping moving.

        • Tom Brimeyer May 25, 2017 at 7:45 am - Reply

          That’s great to hear Kathy. Walking is great exercise and listening to your body is very important.

  2. Terry Haston May 25, 2017 at 7:41 am - Reply

    Hi Tom, I was not implying the article promotes a sedentary lifestyle, but rather just wanted to point out how people should be aware that the other end of the spectrum, which is lack of movement, can be bad for us too.. I’m not disagreeing but rather just pointing something out that folks might not be aware of. I point it out because lately for me personally I have not been getting any exercise at all and hardly move from my desk/couch and that is not helping my situation.. There needs to be a happy medium of safe exercise.. I like the article, and I like that at the end you point to another article regarding the benefits of safe exercise.

  3. Jen May 25, 2017 at 9:14 am - Reply

    Um, Bob Harper did not die.

    • Tom Brimeyer May 25, 2017 at 9:44 am - Reply

      Hi Jen… from the article: “he suffered a major heart attack and died before being revived and kept alive.”

  4. Lianda May 25, 2017 at 10:14 am - Reply

    I was one of those over-the-top exercisers. It resulted in a couple of things: worn out knees, low back pain, hip pain, broken bones and hypothyroid. I admit, I still love playing tennis, but now stick to doubles. My main exercise is “gentle yoga” which exercises my mindfulness at concentrating on releasing tension from my body! And I’ve found a study that showed that in terms of weight loss, any weight loss from exercise is going to come back eventually, but gentle yoga allows the body to lose weight naturally and permanently.

  5. Marko May 25, 2017 at 3:44 pm - Reply

    Tom. You are a genius.

  6. Robert Marin May 30, 2017 at 5:14 am - Reply

    Hello Tom
    have a patient with graves disease and prescribed carbimazole
    any opinion or recommendation

  7. Carmo July 9, 2017 at 3:37 am - Reply

    Being one of the symptoms how come I don’t have high cholesterol? I don’t take T4 just T3…

    • Tom Brimeyer November 17, 2017 at 6:20 am - Reply

      High cholesterol results from a lack of T3 and/or Vitamin A. Studies show that using thyroid hormone (T3) normalizes cholesterol because it, along with vitamin A, converts cholesterol into pregnenolone and all of the steroidal hormones.

  8. Samantha Lord November 17, 2017 at 5:31 am - Reply

    I am hypothyroid and used to do marathons and 100 kilometre races. My health was affected negatively in this way and realise now I can run comfortably 3 times a week for an hour. More than this affects my overall health over time and is counter productive. On the other hand I can do other forms of exercise which require less exertion. However I love to run for stress relief and meditations reasons and it has taken a few years to find the balance..

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