We all know that exercise is vital for healthy organ function, to help maintain a healthy weight and for general wellbeing. And anyone who’s addicted to interval training knows that the endorphin hit is a great mood booster. But did you know that exercise is also fantastically good for your skin?
Your skin is the largest organ in your body, so it makes sense that exercise will influence it. When someone says your skin is glowing, it’s possibly because you’ve just had a workout. And it’s not just because you’ve blasted out a personal best on the treadmill; it’s the processes in the body that give you that wonderful glow, long after the exercise is over.
How does exercise help the skin?
- As your body works hard, your heart does too. Blood vessels expand and the heart pushes blood around the body. This blood carries extra oxygen and nutrients. Delivery of this bonus skincare package helps to keep your skin nourished.
- As well as this, the blood also removes free radicals and other waste from skin cells. It’s the body’s natural detox system and it’s good for every part of you.
- The effects of exercise on collagen are currently being studied. A study found that exercise can increase collagen in skin. Collagen is essential for skin health and production of it diminishes as you age. Keeping up the exercise may help collagen production, which will stave off wrinkles and hollows as you age.
- It’s widely known that exercise eases stress. Stress has been linked to many problems in the body, including acne and eczema. More studies are being done, but it appears that the sebaceous glands producing oil are influenced by stress hormones. A bit of exercise helps to relieve stress, which means the body functions better – and that will mean better-looking skin.
- Regular exercise tones muscles. While this doesn’t actually affect the skin, you’ll notice that skin always looks better when it’s stretched over taut, toned muscles.
See our article on 'Hydrating your Skin from Within'
Can skin be damaged by exercise?
There are a range of skin conditions that can be made worse by exercise, however they can usually be avoided with simple preventative measures.
- Sun exposure is harmful to the skin. It can contribute to uneven skin tone, wrinkles and skin cancer lesions. To avoid problems caused by high UV, don’t exercise during peak sun times (between 11am and 3pm). Always wear sunscreen, preferably a physical barrier cream such as a zinc-based product, rather than a chemical cream. Make sure you put on a visor or cap, which also helps to keep the sun out of your eyes.
- Chafing is caused by skin rubbing on skin or being irritated by clothing, and it can be very painful. Apply a barrier cream to vulnerable areas before you start exercising.
- Exercise can lead to acne mechanica, which is acne that’s caused by tight-fitting workout clothes, sweat and irritation of the skin. Use moisture-wicking clothes that take the sweat off your skin or choose loose-fitting workout gear. Shower straight after a workout and avoid wearing makeup when exercising.
- For people with rosacea, exercise can cause flare-ups due to increased body temperature. To avoid problems, try to exercise in cooler temperatures. Swimming is one way to do this, although you’ll need to shower thoroughly and apply moisturiser to offset the drying effects of chlorine. If you can, run in the morning or evening, rather than in the heat of the day.
- Sufferers of eczema and psoriasis may notice flare-ups after exercise. This is often due to the salt in perspiration. Before exercise, apply a non-reactive moisturiser to act as a barrier cream to sweat. In particular, apply to creases in the skin, in places such as underarms and groin. Shower afterwards in tepid (not hot) water.
- If you find that your acne flares up with exercise, it could be because perspiration is combining with makeup to block your pores. It’s best to remove makeup before exercising and shower afterwards to wash sweat away.
If you want to glow from the outside in, exercise!
The combined benefits of increased blood flow, reduced stress and taut muscles help to make you look fantastic. Build exercise into your working week by including a couple of cardio workouts, like cycling or running, and a couple of strength workouts, such as weight training or Pilates. To stop exercise from becoming boring and to avoid injuries, never do the same workout two days in a row.
See our article on 'How to get 'Glass Skin' naturally'.