Which Exercise is Best For My Skin Condition?
Written by Phillip Bayer BHSc.Nat
As practitioners we see many patients wanting to incorporate optimal dietary and lifestyle habits in order to improve their skin health. Exercise is certainly an important part of a healthy routine to support chronic skin disease, not only to enhance physical wellbeing, but also for the mental benefits as well. When it comes to your skin health, the type of exercise and the environment you are exercising in are equally as important. See my below tips on which exercise is best for different skin conditions, to help you increase your fitness without the flaring.
If you have a heat-induced urticaria, avoid all forms of hot (intense) exercise and stick to very gentle exercise in the cool time of the day, being careful to remain within your limits to avoid exacerbating the flare. Opt for low intensity where the heart rate does not exceed approximately 110 BPM
For eczemas and other allergic conditions where there is an inhalant allergy to pollen/ dust/ grasses and/or native plants, particular care must be taken to avoid exercise during pollination/ spring and when the wind is blowing. Exposure to those allergens may exacerbate your flare-up. During those times, exercising indoors may be a better option. Keep your windows and doors closed.
In psoriasis, avoid exercise which may press or rub on lesions on contact points of the body, such as the elbows or the knees. Examples can include contact sports, weights or rowing (if hands are affected) and exercises that may involve helmets (if the hairline or scalp are affected). Friction and injury can both induce and exacerbate psoriasis lesions due to what is referred to as the Koebner Phenomenon.
If your skin is flaring but the lesions are not very red/ burning or very itchy, you can increase the intensity of exercise but again be careful to exercise in the cool time of the day and avoid strong direct sunshine on the skin. Chronic plaque psoriasis can often occur alongside comorbidities such as obesity and cardiovascular disease and therefore cardiovascular exercise can be very beneficial.
It is best to avoid swimming in chlorinated pools during a flare of any skin condition, but you may find swimming in the sea or a mineral pool helpful.
As always, listen to your body and discontinue exercise if your skin starts to feel worse – know your limits.
Skin Flaring? Keep your cool
Heat can be a common trigger of skin flaring and itching.
As a general rule, stick to doing exercise in the coolest time of the day, such as early morning or early evening when the sun is low.
If you are having an acute flare of your condition, and your skin is red, hot, burning or intensely itchy, abstain from heavy cardiovascular exercise. If you feel up to it, a gentle walk or stretching exercises such as yoga or Pilates is more suitable during this time. Avoid tight fitness wear where possible and opt for loose fitting clothes instead.
A cool shower or bath after exercise is a good way to cool down quickly and limit the risk of exacerbating your condition. Using a fan during exercise if the ambient temperature is warm can also help.