Physical Activity and Skin Health

Physical activity is a movement that requires the use of your muscles and burns energy and calories. There are many types of exercise and finding a style of exercise that fits your body, lifestyle, and health goals is the key to success. Before beginning an exercise regimen or making significant changes to your exercise routine, consult a doctor to ensure that the exercise is safe and appropriate for you and your individual needs.

Exercise has many benefits beyond improving health. Decades of scientific research support that burning 700 to 1,000 calories per week through physical activity can have a wide range of positive impacts. These include reduced risk of developing diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers— especially colon and breast cancers. Additionally, exercise has been shown to improve mental health, quality of sleep, quality of life, and mood.

Exercise as a Keystone Habit

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Regular exercise is part of living a healthy lifestyle. In addition to its physical benefits such as increased bone density, weight loss, and the prevention of chronic disease, exercise has many benefits to overall health, including mental wellness, skincare, and pain management.

Exercise can also be a “keystone” habit — a habit that has the effect of triggering other positive habits. Exercise can start a chain of good habits: better sleep, better eating, and better personal choices.

“Typically, people who exercise start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.”

― Charles Duhigg

woman running

Because there are so many kinds of exercise, there’s no need to suffer through something that’s just not right for you. You might like the adrenaline from running, the calm from yoga, the strength from weightlifting, or the challenge from CrossFit.

Developing a regular exercise routine that suits your fitness style will increase your energy, improve your mindset, and help make physical activity both enjoyable and sustainable. If you love competition, competitive sports may be your perfect match. On the other hand, if you don’t like crowds, you may not feel comfortable in group classes.

Like food, think creatively about exercise. Be curious to try the right combination of exercise that suits you physically, mentally, and emotionally. Find the time of day, duration, and intensity-level that fits your schedule and preferences. When adding exercise into your routine, remember that your body also needs rest and relaxation to maximize the benefits of exercise and to recover. So, give yourself a minimum one day a week for rest. 

Listen to your body and learn how to challenge and protect yourself. Your goal is to create a habit of exercising, so find something that can work for you for the long term. Take a moment to reflect on the mental, emotional, and physical hurdles in your way, and see where they can be adjusted for an overall better experience.

Exercise and Mental Health

woman leg press heavy weights

Regular exercise can improve your mental health, including the reduction of depression and anxiety symptoms in adults. Studies have shown that regular, low-intensity exercise, continued over long periods of time, can lead to increased release of neurotrophic proteins, which in turn can lead to better brain function and help relieve depression symptoms in some people. Exercise also improves your cardiovascular system, leading to more energy as your heart and lungs work more efficiently, making you feel more energized.

While it may seem difficult to add exercise to an already busy schedule, keep in mind that any kind of exercise can provide stress relief. Exercise not only releases endorphins, which make you feel better but also can help release tensions that your body may have been holding throughout the day. Exercise can also provide an opportunity for the brain to “turn off,” resetting stresses and anxieties build up throughout the day.

Exercise and Skin Health

woman floating in lake

Exercise has many benefits for your skin. In addition to the short-term benefits of giving an “instant glow,” the increased blood flow and stress-relieving qualities of physical activity can also reduce acne and slow the skin-aging process.

Because exercise increases blood flow and circulation, regular exercise can help mitigate skin problems. Exercise causes pores to dilate, which allows sweat to remove any oils or bacteria that could cause acne. To maximize the benefits of this process, those who suffer from acne should promptly wash acne-prone areas with a gentle cleanser to remove impurities after exercising to prevent breakouts.

Additionally, with careful mitigation of body temperature, hydration, clothing, and oncoming outbreaks, people with skin conditions such as eczema or rosacea can find exercise activities that work for them. Some possibilities include swimming, exercising indoors, taking frequent breaks during workouts to cool down and wearing exercise gear that is light and breathable allowing sweat to easily evaporate off your skin.  Look for cotton fabrics that are soft on the skin and looser fitting so they don’t irritate skin.   

As our skin matures, it replaces cells more slowly and loses elasticity. Studies have shown that participants who exercise more frequently have younger-looking skin. The benefits are not just cumulative — those who started an exercise routine later in adult life still had younger-looking skin after routine exercise. 

Quick Tips for Skin Safety

Protect your skin during exercise.

  • Before exercise: use a mineral-based SPF for outdoor exercise year-round and use a hairband or elastic to keep hair out of your eyes and face, to reduce the irritation and create a barrier against sweat.
  • During exercise: dress for the season and use layers to manage your body temperature and sweat. Try UV-blocking clothing year-round for easy sun protection. Find lightweight, wicking layers for cooler weather.
  • After exercise: A cooling, hydrating mist can replenish the skin after strenuous workouts. This helps the skin return to its normal temperature and can help reduce redness.

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