An expert explains how exercising can help your skin

Posted by for Wellbeing

If you struggle with your skin, regular exercise could be just what the doctor ordered. 

It’s no secret that exercise is great for everything from your mind to your body. Whether you want to get stronger through strength training, get your heart racing during a run, or manage your mental health with a walk, getting moving in a way that works for you has a whole host of benefits.

With that in mind, it might not come as too much of a surprise to learn that it can do good things for your skin, too. As fitness trainer and doctor Folusha Oluwajana explains, exercising regularly “is associated with improvements in the appearance of the skin,” and “many people who exercise regularly report smoother, plumper skin.”

Clearly, then, regular exercise “can make you healthier on the inside and on the outside.” But why is that? How is it that working out can have such a positive effect on how your skin looks and feels? We asked Folusha to give us the details. 

How exactly does exercise help your skin?

Folusha tells us that the benefits “are possibly due to increased blood flow bringing oxygen and nutrients to the skin, which nourish it and promote new cell formation.” This increased blood flow can also help to “clear impurities and free radicals,” which are “molecules that cause damage to cells.”

If you work out on a regular basis, this process can promote that smoother, plumper skin that Folusha mentioned. But the benefits aren’t just long-term. In fact, “directly after exercise, increased blood flow, clear open pores and raised endorphins can also contribute to a radiant, dewy appearance,” which is sometimes referred to as the “post-gym glow.”

However, while it is understood that exercise does affect the skin, it is not entirely clear why. This has to do with the fact that, while “exercise has proven benefits for many parts of the body, the skin is actually the least researched.” 

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How exactly does exercise help your skin?

Exercise is known to relieve stress. Does this have a knock-on effect on your skin?

While the effects of exercise on the skin are only just being discovered, its powers as a stress reliever are already very well known. And, since “stress can have a direct negative impact on our skin,” managing it through exercise can also help to improve the skin’s appearance.

As Folusha explains, “raised stress hormones, particularly cortisol, can increase oil production in the skin,” and this can “block pores and increase breakouts.” So, in “using exercise as a form of stress management,” you can “reduce chronically raised stress hormone levels,” which will in turn help to prevent you from breaking out. 

Is exercise always good for people who struggle with skin conditions?

While there is plenty of potential for exercise to help your skin, those who suffer with skin conditions “may need to be more vigilant,” says Folusha. She explains that “sweat and debris on the skin after exercise attracts bacteria, which can exacerbate skin conditions such as acne,” and so it is important for those who struggle with them “to thoroughly wash the skin soon after exercise.” 

People with eczema may need to be even more careful, since “sweat, heat and tight clothes may irritate and aggravate” the condition. Folusha recommends that eczema sufferers wear “loose, cool clothing when they work out to avoid irritation, and take a cool shower to cool the skin quickly after exercise.”

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