We all know that getting exercise is great for your overall health, but studies are starting to demonstrate that it can also be incredibly beneficial for your skin too! From anti-aging to combating acne, going to the gym is an integral part of a well-rounded skincare routine!
How the Gym Can Impact Your Skin
Going to the gym has a huge host of benefits for your mind and your body, but it can also give your skin a boost too! When you’re stressed out, your body’s response inevitably deprives your skin of the oxygen and nutrients it needs. Exercise lowers levels of these stress hormones, as well as insulin, both of which can cause skin problems like acne. In fact, studies have found that regular exercise can help to reduce acne (Journal of Health Psychology). Exercise has also been found to do all kinds of other great things for the skin! It has been shown to speed up wound healing (Research News). It also improves circulation, which helps bring more nutrients to the skin (Wellness Resource Center).
But one of the most exciting discoveries about the correlation between exercise and our skin came from a recent study conducted by researchers at McMaster University in Ontario. Studies at McMaster involving mice demonstrated that a consistent fitness regimen could delay the signs of early aging in the animals. Alternatively, the mice who remained sedentary rapidly became frail, ill, demented, and graying. The mice who were able to run consistently maintained healthy brains, hearts, muscles, reproductive organs, and fur far longer than the mice who remained sedentary. In fact, the fur on the mice who exercised never even turned gray!
But mice and people are not the same, so the next step for researchers was to test their theory on people. They selected a group of sedentary volunteers age 65 or older and took a skin sample from their buttocks at the start of the study. Each volunteer had what is considered normal skin for their age. The volunteers worked out twice a week doing endurance exercises such as jogging and cycling. After three months had passed researchers took a skin sample from the same spot and were blown away by the results. The outer and inner layers looked very similar to those of 20- to 40-year-olds. “I don’t want to over-hype the results, but, really, it was pretty remarkable to see,” Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky said in a recent interview with the New York Times. Under a microscope, the volunteers’ skin “looked like that of a much younger person, and all that they had done differently was exercise.”
At this time researchers are not sure exactly how or why exercise impacts the skin, but they have a theory! During the study, they checked for alterations in the levels of substances called myokines which are created by working muscles and enter the bloodstream to jump-start changes in cells. Scientists found increased levels of the myokine IL-15 in the skin samples of volunteers after exercise. The samples contained almost 50 percent more IL-15 after they had been exercising than at the start of the study. They believe that IL-15 is responsible for the changes in the skin, and because levels can only be increased through exercise a pill or injectable won’t be able to replicate the results.
Best Exercise for Beautiful Skin
What are the best workouts to achieve beautiful skin? The beauty brand Foreo teamed up with dermatologist Dr. Anita Sturnham to determine just that. “We all know how important it is for our health that we exercise regularly, but the impact of exercise on your skin is something that has been little documented, until now,” said Dr. Sturnham in an interview with Who What Wear UK. “It has been fascinating to delve deeper into the relationship between the two, and I hope that this work done by Foreo will encourage others to consider certain types of exercise as a beneficial element to our skincare regimes.”
Just like different ingredients can benefit the skin in different ways, the same can be said for exercising. If you’re looking to boost the radiance in your skin, resistance training and yoga should be part of your weekly routine. If you want to combat breakouts and acne, the report claims that moderate intensity workouts like cycling will do the trick. If you want to plump and firm your skin, work with a personal trainer to do HIIT (high-intensity interval training). HITT has been shown to help reduce free radical damage and boost collagen in the skin.
But all this working out will be for naught if you aren’t cleansing your skin properly! “If you are choosing to tailor your workout to also benefit your skin, then it’s important to remember that caring for it topically is also of paramount importance,” explained Sturnam. “However you exercise, sweating is inevitable, and while this is an important bodily function for removing toxins and impurities, leaving it on the skin can result in clogged pores and dehydration. If you’re not removing the sweat from the skin, then all the hard work you have done in your skin boosting exercise regime becomes redundant.” Here are my tips for what to do after a workout to properly protect your skin, and what products I like to carry in my gym bag.
How Often Should You Hit the Gym
Now that we know how good exercising is for your skin, you’re probably tempted to start working out as often as possible. But “more is better” doesn’t quite apply here. According to a recent study, working out four times a week might be more beneficial to you than working out six times a week. The study asked 72 previous sedentary women, ranging in age from 60 to 74-years-old to do a combination of weight lifting and aerobic exercise for a particular number of days every week (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise). They either worked out two days a week (one-day weight lifting, one day aerobic), four days a week (two days weight lifting, two days aerobic), or six days a week (three days weight lifting, three days aerobic). Researchers had participants slowly increase their workouts so that each session was about 40 minutes. After four months, all the groups lost body fat, increased muscle mass, and increased endurance. Surprisingly, all three groups had about the same level of fitness — meaning the two-day-a-week group was just as the six-day-a-week group. But what was really interesting was the average energy expenditures. The two-day-a-week group used up about 68 extra calories per day in total energy expenditure (not just exercising). And the four-day-a-week group expended an extra 200 calories per day in total energy expenditure. But the six-day-a-week group actually used about 150 fewer calories per day in total energy expenditure.
Want to amp up your skincare routine? Go to the gym 4 days a week and do a combination of HIIT, yoga, resistance training, and cycling. Be sure you’re properly cleansing and moisturizing after a workout as sweat can clog your pores and dehydrate your skin!