We all know that keeping fit and exercising regularly are good for our health, and our bodies. But did you know just how powerful exercise can be when it comes to keeping skin looking and feeling healthy? There’s something in the idea of a ‘healthy glow’.
Skin is the largest organ in our body so it makes sense that if exercise benefits other organs like our heart and lungs, it must also be good for our skin. The benefits of exercise on skin health start at a cellular level. All cells have a mitochondrion, which is responsible for generating ATP, a substance which helps to repair cell damage and maintain skin’s integrity with collagen and elastin fibres.
As we age, the production of ATP starts to naturally slow down, and this affects the health of our skin. It begins to show signs of ageing - wrinkles, fine lines and sagging. Despite there being some fabulous products and treatments available at my skin clinic in Needham Market to help stimulate collagen production, as yet there is no medicine available that will replace ATP in cells that are getting older.
There may be a solution to this issue which is easier and more natural than you’d imagine. Rather than waiting for the scientists to develop the technology to replace ATP, adding in exercise to your daily routine can help to reverse changes in the mitochondria of skin cells. One study from London’s King’s College compared the muscle fibres of men and women who had been cycling for many years with the muscle fibres of younger cyclists and there was hardly any difference - and although the study looked at muscle cells and not skin cells, it stands to reason that skin cells will react in a similar way to being properly worked out!
Whether resistance, weight training or cardio - exercise is also known to help reduce inflammation and stress which also protects our much-needed collagen, giving us an extra boost in our quest to stay looking youthful and glowing. Exercise also makes our heartbeat faster, which gets freshly oxygenated blood to everywhere it’s needed, including your skin. That post-workout flush is a good thing! Increasing blood flow to the skin cells nourishes them and keeps them vital, and the boosted blood flow also helps to rid the body of toxins and waste, such as nasty free radicals, from working cells. Think of it as cleansing your skin from the inside.
There are things to be aware of skincare-wise when you increase your exercise levels. If you exercise outside, you absolutely must protect your skin with a good quality, high SPF sunscreen if you want to maximise the benefits and avoid sun damage. Overheating might cause issues for rosacea sufferers if the skin flushing leads to flare-ups but working out in a cooler environment solves this problem. Try swimming, as water cools your skin (just remember to moisturise afterwards). Cool compresses after an exercise session can also help.
Salt from extra sweating after a workout can sometimes cause eczema or psoriasis to flare up too, but again, using a good moisturiser pre- workout should help to protect you from sweat, as will exercising in a cool environment.
The benefits of exercise on your whole body are so great that a little extra moisturiser or reapplication of sunscreen are well worth it, in my opinion. I’m just off to the gym; if you need any advice on skincare, products or treatments or would like to book a session at my skin clinic in Suffolk, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.