Picture yourself in a gym or health club, using the equipment, running on the treadmill, and lifting weights. You’re helping to improve your muscle tone, cardiovascular fitness, and stamina. As you would imagine, the exercise program you’re doing is helping to bolster every part of your body. And that includes your skin!
Your skin is an organ; in fact, it’s the largest organ in your body. Your skin helps regulate your internal temperature or “body heat,” provides sensation so you know when you’re too close to heat or cold, protects your body, helps regulate your internal organs, and of course, it senses the world you live in.
You work hard to keep your skin in good shape by using sunscreen with high SPF, covering it with appropriate clothing in summer and winter, and avoiding damaging it by keeping it out of harm’s way. But did you know that exercise helps to improve your skin as well? It does, keep reading to learn how!
One of the biggest benefits of exercise for your skin is that it helps to keep oxygen and key nutrients flowing to the skin’s cells. What nutrients are flowing? We’re talking about protein that gives your body the energy it needs while building and repairing your body’s cells. Proteins also provide enzymes, hormones, and antibodies that work to keep your body healthy.
Other nutrients include carbohydrates that are key to providing nutrients to your brain and nervous system, and that work to replenish red blood cells. Exercise also helps to keep fat-soluble nutrients, also known as vitamins flowing to your skin’s cells.
The most important thing that exercise keeps moving of course is blood. Blood flow is what helps remove waste products from the body, including those nasty free radical molecules. Here’s something else to consider; that increased blood flow also reaches your liver - the organ responsible for detoxifying and neutralizing toxins in your body. All that weight-lifting and stair-stepping you do really helps to clear out the cellular debris that accumulates inside your system. What you’re really doing is cleansing your skin from the inside out!
You’ve probably already realized this, but exercise is one of the best ways to reduce stress. According to the Sports Dermatology Clinic at the University of Cincinnati, stress is known to exacerbate a variety of skin conditions. These include acne, eczema, and psoriasis. Stress produces cortisol, and high cortisol levels are linked to more sebum production, which in turn causes acne episodes.
There is still much research to be done, but current studies show that stress hormones trigger your sebaceous glands, which causes those glands to produce more oil. This in turn clogs pores and leads to outbreaks of acne. It also causes your collagen to break down, which could lead to fine lines and wrinkles.
That answer is “it depends.” Here’s why. The major risk to your skin is exposure to UV radiation from the sun. But that risk only exists if you exercise outdoors during daylight hours. Not only does sun exposure increase your risk of developing skin cancer, it also exposes you to rapid skin aging. This is known as photoaging, and includes fine lines and wrinkles, sagging skin cells, age spots (hyperpigmentation) and other malevolent skin issues.
But of course there’s an easy fix to this. Never exercise outdoors without a high SPF sunscreen, and if at all possible never exercise out under the sun between the hours of 10 a.m and 4 p.m. If you have concerns about sunscreen getting into your eyes when you sweat, don't worry, there are new pH-balanced sunscreens on the market that won't sting your eyes when you sweat!
Plus, if you have an issue with oily skin or continuous bouts of acne, there are oil-free products available that still provide an adequate SPF level of protection for your skin. While there are solutions available, just remember that if you exercise to the point of sweating, sunscreen will still slide off and your chance of burning increases.
To combat this, wear appropriate clothing that covers your skin as much as you can tolerate, and use a hat that shades your face, neck, and ears. You’ll find that there are now more options than ever to the basic tight-fitting workout clothes. One great option for skin comfort is to wear clothing made of moisture-wicking fabric.
As soon after exercising as you can - shower! And always apply a moisturizer to your skin after showering to prevent skin irritation from dryness. By following these simple suggestions you’ll be able to reap all the benefits of exercising for healthier and more radiant skin.
If you have sensitive skin, you may develop exercise-related skin issues. These include conditions that can be triggered by exercising, including rosacea, psoriasis, eczema and others. If you already have rosacea, exercising can boost your body’s temperature and the rush of blood to your skin from exerting yourself can cause rosacea flare-ups. If it’s a serious problem, your exercise of choice should be swimming - your skin will be cool no matter how much you bump up your body temperature. Just remember to moisturize your skin after pool and shower!
For those with psoriasis or eczema, the salt in your perspiration from exercising can exacerbate your problems. Here’s a tip: use an occlusive moisturizerbefore you exercise to help protect your skin from the salt in your sweat. Try exercising in a cool, comfortable space. This also may help to limit your need to constantly shower, as showering too often can dry out skin and trigger eczema and psoriasis.
Ok, you just spent 30 minutes on the treadmill, running at a pretty fast pace. So how does this workout improve your skin and make for a more radiant, youthful appearance? When you do aerobic exercises, your body increases its flow of oxygenated blood to your skin. That’s what makes your skin glow after a workout. The skin is full of blood vessels near the skin’s surface, and as you work out those vessels dilate an give your skin that healthy, radiant look. Finally, research has shown that regular, moderate exercise can help increase your body’s own production of natural antioxidants, to combat the free radicals that cause you skin to sag and fine lines and wrinkles to appear. This helps give you a more youthful appearance as well.
But here’s the best part: as you work out, this oxygenated blood flow and the dilation of the blood vessels on your skin helps trigger your skin cells to produce more collagen. Collagen is the protein that gives your skin a firm, smooth look and prevents skin sagging because it also enhances the skin’s elasticity. This makes for a more radiant, youthful looking skin.
Once you’re finished exercising, the glow doesn’t simply disappear. When you exercise, your skin produces natural oils, which helps to keep the skin healthy looking and supple. The oils also help to moisturize your skin. Plus, exercise helps your body regulate the amount of sebaceous oil your glands produce, helping to minimize any excess oil as well as remove clogged pores. Your post-workout "rosy complexion" will stay with you long after your workout is over.
Another benefit is that all that pumping iron tones your muscles, which are located under your skin. Those toned muscles help to make our skin look healthier. Plus, your firm muscles provide additional support to your skin, minimizing the appearance of sagging, or even cellulite in places other than on your face. By improving your skin tone - you look more youthful, your skin looks more radiant and smooth, and you appear younger.
Want healthier, younger looking skin? Do you want less fine lines and wrinkles, along with less sagging skin? Of course you do! Now just grab some appropriate workout clothes and head for the gym or club. Spend a half-hour each day or every other day and give your body a healthy workout. 30 minutes is all it will take to gain the benefits that exercise holds for your skin.
We’ve reviewed the health benefits for your skin that exercise provides, so there’s absolutely no reason whatsoever to skip it. You just have to be committed to wanting younger looking, more radiant, and beautiful skin. You’ll be gaining a healthier looking complexion and healthier looking skin while reducing your stress levels, building tone in all of your body’s muscles, and even losing weight if that’s your goal.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and use exercise to improve your skin!