Breaking a sweat is even more important than you think. Of course, you’ve heard that exercise is good for you. Whether you want to maintain or lose weight, increase strength, improve your cardiovascular system, sleep better or improve your state of wellbeing, exercise will help. But there’s another reason to make exercise a regular habit: it’s good for your body’s largest organ—your skin.

Look younger and feel better
Make exercise a habit. With regular exercise, you can improve your skin—on and below the surface. During aerobic exercise, your heart and lungs deliver oxygen-rich blood to your muscles and skin. With added blood flow, your circulation improves as well delivering more nutrients to your skin to produce collagen, a protein that makes skin smooth, plump and elastic.
This added flow flushes out toxins, such as free radicals, that contribute to signs of aging. Exercise also boosts your skin’s cell turnover, giving you a healthy glow. Sweating helps to clean out pores of congested skin as well. For adults who suffer from acne, exercise can help balance hormone levels associated with the condition.
Weight training has benefits for your skin too. It helps to strengthen and tone your muscles, which support your skin and can even minimize the appearance of cellulite.
Yoga is another great option. Yoga tones and strengthens your body while also quieting the mind, which reduces stress.
What stress does to skin
Consistent exercise relieves stress, providing benefits for anyone who exercises regularly. When your body is under stress, the stress hormone, cortisol, is released. Exercise does the exact opposite, reducing cortisol levels while simultaneously delivering an added bonus of endorphins to make you feel better during and after exercise.
Cortisol triggers an increase in blood sugar, which accelerates skin’s aging process. Called glycation, excess sugar can lead to wrinkles by damaging collagen and elastin, the protein fibers that plump skin and keep it smooth. Constant muscle tension also leads to permanent wrinkling. Damaged elastin is abnormally clumped together when viewed under a microscope, and research has convincingly shown that glycation is to blame.
Cortisol hormone surges can impair our skin’s barrier, leading to dryness, irritation and inflammation, which is bad for everyone but especially for those suffering from chronic skin conditions, such as rosacea, psoriasis, eczema and acne. Regular exercise help keeps these conditions at bay.
The science behind it
Researchers at McMaster University in Ontario studied a small group of adults between ages 20 and 84 who led active versus sedentary lifestyles. Findings indicated people 40+ who exercised regularly had healthier, younger-looking skin than their sedentary peers. In fact, the overall composition of the regular exercisers’ skin was comparable to that of someone between 20- and 30-year-olds with more supple and elastic skin.
After about age 40, most of us begin to experience a thickening of our stratum corneum, the outermost, protective layer of the epidermis. Made up of mostly of dead skin cells and some collagen, it gets drier and thicker as we age. At the same time, the layer of skin beneath the epidermis, the dermis, begins to thin as it loses cells and elasticity. These changes are independent of any skin damage from the sun—instead related to the passage of time.
In this study, researchers discovered elevated levels of a substance critical to cell health called IL-15 in skin samples of participants after exercise. More research is needed to understand how exercise changes skin composition, but initial findings are promising.

Protect your body during & after exercise
Sunscreen is a must every day. Use a broad-spectrum, waterproof SPF 30+ sunscreen to avoid sweating off this protection. And wear protective clothing, such as hats and clothes. Go for loose, breathable, moisture-wicking clothes that cover your body and protect you from chafing. For those who suffer from chronic skin conditions, moisture-wicking fabrics are very important so sweat doesn’t irritate your skin as well. Don’t forget sunglasses.
Remember, it’s important to shower after workouts to remove dead skin and toxins from skin’s surface. Wash with gentle soap to clean skin and reduce the chance of clogged pores from sweating on your face and body, such as back (bacne). If you cannot shower right after exercise, use cleansing wipes.
Now you’ve got another reason to exercise regularly—and keep your New Year’s resolution!
Don’t forget to schedule your annual skin check at Dermatology Center of the Rockies. We’d love to help you and your family to take care of your skin.