Does Exercise Help Acne?
Engaging in regular exercise can reduce stress, regulate hormone levels, increase circulation, and boost the immune system. Taking up daily exercise can help improve your skin, mental health and lifestyle, particularly where acne is concerned.
Acne and Exercise
We all know that exercise is good for us, but we don’t necessarily think of physical activity as being beneficial in dealing with acne. The skin, however, is the body’s largest organ, covering us literally from head to foot, so it’s not surprising that something which is great for weight-loss, stress and depression can also be great for skin conditions like acne.
Exercise doesn’t directly ‘detoxify’ the skin, a job which belongs mostly to the liver, but it does help flush cellular debris out of the system by increasing blood flow. When you exercise, the body's heart rate and respiration increase, leading to increased circulation. This results in more oxygen reaching the skin cells, meaning fewer flare-ups.
The presence of extra oxygen in the blood also promotes the healing and building processes required to strengthen muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones. This, combined with the extra speed in which the blood travels, helps to collect the toxins stored in the body, which are eventually flushed out of the body through sweat.
Exercise is also great for managing stress levels, which contribute to acne and other skin problems. The sebaceous glands, which produce oil in the skin, are influenced by stress hormones, meaning the more stressed you feel, the more likely you are to suffer from a ‘break out,’ which can lead to further stress, eventually resulting in a vicious cycle.
Exercise and mental health
Exercise triggers the production of endorphins; neurotransmitters which interact with opiate receptors in the brain to reduce our perception of pain. They can be considered 'natural painkillers.' Because of this ‘feel good factor,’ physical activity is encouraged as treatment for depression and anxiety.
So it’s also great for dealing with mental health issues triggered by, or relating to, acne.
As we’ve seen elsewhere on this site, the cyclical battle between acne, self-perception and depressive tendencies is overwhelmingly common, with 62% of adults suffering from some kind of psychological damage in conjunction with acne, according to the British Journal of Dermatology (1999).
Research by the Cochrane Collaboration suggests that in mild-depression, exercise can be as effective a treatment as medication and talking therapies. Ironically, however, the very thing which is nearly guaranteed to lift mood, is the thing those suffering with mental health feel least like doing, owing to tiredness and lack of motivation.
It can be difficult to incorporate an exercise regime if you’re already battling depression or low-mood. There are, however, a few easy ways to introduce exercise into your life.
1. Build up gradually
The NHS suggests that most healthy adults need to engage in two and a half hours of ‘moderate-intensity-aerobic-activity’ every week, as well as two sessions of muscle-strengthening activity. That all sounds a bit scary, especially if you’re not used to doing much other than sitting at home, but even just gently cycling or walking for a couple of hours a week constitutes aerobic activity. Yoga and other gentle muscular exercises are also good for breathing and relaxation.
2. Keep cool
Although there’s no medical-based research on the topic, some individuals claim their acne is affected by body-temperature. You can counter this by exercising in a cool environment.
Swimming keeps the skin cool despite raised body temperature and perspiration, but be sure to shower and moisturise afterwards. If you prefer running, go for a jog in the evening rather than midday when the sun is at its highest. Afterwards, apply a cool compress to areas that feel overly flushed and warm.
3. Keep clean
Sweat can irritate the skin and exacerbate problems like acne, eczema and psoriasis. Wear loose fitting gym kit to avoid chaffing, and shower immediately to wash away perspiration.
4. Join a class
Joining a local gym class has major benefits. Having a set time and place to exercise will ensure you get your physical activity done. Classes are also a good place to meet new people, so if you’re feeling down, the company and potential friendships made at a gym class could boost self-esteem.
5. Don’t let it get on top of you
Finally, forget guidelines – sometimes it’s best to just do what you can. Any amount of physical activity is better than none, so just going for a ten minute walk to the shop will do you good! Don’t compare yourself to others, or get carried away with excessive exercise.
Start exercising today
Increasing physical activity, consuming plenty of water and allowing time for relaxation will raise your stress threshold, create stability and help you to stay clear of acne. Remember to incorporate our other lifestyle tips, like sleeping and eating well, to see the full physical and psychological benefits of exercise.