How it helps and 9 tips for doing it safely

Whether it’s not having a scooby to host a gym workout or struggling to use the plethora of home gym equipment, it’s no wonder many of you are having a hard time getting started. to exercise. A new study by Venus in the UK of 2,000 women aged 18-45 has found that the appearance of your skin also plays a role, with more than a third of participants sharing that they don’t won’t play sports because of it. The reasons for this were stretch marks and cellulite, and for example, eczema.

1.3 million people in the UK suffer from this skin condition (its most common form is also known as atopic dermatitis), but it presents differently in everyone. Some of you may have ‘small patches of dry skin, while others may have generalized inflamed skin all over your body’, the NHS says.

When it comes to treatment, the standard approach is a topical one – the NHS lists ’emollients (hydrating treatments)’ and ‘topical corticosteroids’, while exercise is often avoided as many believe sweating can exacerbate symptoms. It may sometimes be the case. One study attributed it to the fact that eczema weakens the structure of the skin and its ability to sweat because the sweat pores are blocked by dead skin cells, which means sweat seeps into the skin. and may increase itching sensations.

But a growing body of research has proven that exercise – if done correctly – can help. Some research has suggested there may be a link between eczema and excess weight, and one study found this to be true, when participants who followed a weight loss program that included aerobic exercise and a low-calorie diet experienced significant improvement in eczema symptoms. .

Exercise can also help if you know that stress is a big trigger for your flare-ups. One study found that participants who maintained regular physical activity had a 30% lower risk of stress than the group who did not exercise. And other research has shown that stress impairs the function of your skin barrier (making it more susceptible to eczema flare-ups), while eczema causes significant stress and can affect your quality of life. Exercise as an intervention has been proven to significantly improve and reduce the likelihood of flare-ups.

There’s a lot to figure out, and trying to manage the symptoms is a minefield. Eczema sufferer Abby Tai, eczema nutritionist and founder of Eczema Conquerors and the Eczema Podcast, was born with the disease and has dealt with flare-ups since childhood. Her skin was once so sore that exercising was almost too painful to bare, but she’s learned to adapt her routine to work with her eczema, rather than against it.

For more information about eczema, including a confidential helpline and more advice on eczema and exercise, visit the National Eczema Society.


“In high school, I was incredibly athletic — I captained the cross country, the basketball team, the rowing team, and even the swim,” she tells us. “As an adult, I exercised several times a week, which included weight training, cardio, and dancing. (I also come from a very fit family – my parents are in their 60s – they compete professionally in Latin dancing and my brother competed in CrossFit – so they have always pushed and inspired me to do exercise.)

exercise and eczema

“But my eczema often took away almost all the enjoyment I found from exercising. I hated being on the basketball team – not only because I was in so much physical pain, but also because I had so afraid of what other people thought of me.

“It continued into adulthood. After having my first son at 30, my skin became very inflamed and I became very shy every time I went to gym class. I tried to cover myself with long pants, long sleeves and hats. Whenever we had to do workouts that involved looking in the mirror, I looked away so I wouldn’t see myself.

exercise and eczema

“I lost a lot of motivation to exercise because I felt so depressed, but my family always pushed me to move more to heal, so I kept going. I also found that even though I didn’t like going to the gym to exercise, I always left feeling good about myself, which also helped me maintain it.

exercise and eczema

“But I also had to adapt my way of approaching the exercise. In high school I quit all competitive activities except basketball (but I was still trying to hide my skin), and in adulthood when I was 95% covered in rashes from the head to toe, I was forced to take a break from all exercise.’

It was when Tai took a gentler exercise approach that things changed. “I tried lighter forms of exercise that my body could handle, such as walking, cycling and bouncing on a mini trampoline, to get my lymphatic system moving. Cycling outside was the best way to distract me from the pain.

“After a few months of this type of exercise – and taking a probiotic, supplements to aid digestion and lymphatic drainage, an L-glutamine supplement to help with gut repair, and a supplement to balance my levels of thyroid (all of which were issues that surfaced when I had various tests) – my skin started to heal significantly, and I added dancing and weight lifting once a week.

exercise and eczema

André Ly

Eczema can have a huge impact on your mental health, and Tai found that finding a form of fitness that could “boost your mood” would also do wonders. “Dancing is my passion,” she says. “It helps me release tension and feel good, even on a bad day of pushing.”

For her, there are now only two forms of exercise that she will avoid. “Swimming can sting my skin and the chlorine sometimes exacerbates my breakouts. I also leave out anything too intense, like HIIT – a lot of sweat can aggravate my skin and make it more itchy.

Its message is clear: if you also suffer from skin conditions, eczema or other conditions, it’s all about finding physical activity that is both gentle and pleasant for the skin. She says, “It’s very easy to let our negative emotions overwhelm us when we’re in a slump, but I encourage anyone who feels this to focus on the positive benefits that come from exercise. Stop comparing yourself to others and remember that there is no point in intense exercise until your skin feels better – exercise is stress and stress can exacerbate symptoms.

“Think about how mentally great you will feel from the exercise you enjoy, but also how it will help boost your circulation and lymphatic system (which, in turn, will boost your immune system and may reduce pushes).

‘The benefits of exercise aren’t always apparent (and sometimes ‘invisible’) – but don’t give up, as it’s one thing that can help your body, mind and soul thrive – by especially during a push.’

Tai’s story may or may not resonate with yours – as mentioned, everyone’s experience with eczema is unique, but sports and exercise medicine consultant Dr. Rebecca Robinson has a few tips for you. could all benefit.


How can exercise help eczema?

Dr Robinson said: “Exercise is great for all of us and long-term skin conditions like eczema shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the benefits that range from heart health to mental health, joint but also to your skin. Indirectly, exercise can reduce stress, which can help you avoid an eczema flare-up. Although the causes of eczema are not fully understood and some are genetic and some are allergic, eczema can also have an inflammatory cause and exercise can reduce inflammation in the body.

    9 tips for exercising with eczema

    1. Take regular breaks. Eczema can flare up when your skin gets too hot, so it’s more important on hot days. Find a well-ventilated gym.
    2. Wear sportswear that lets your skin “breathe”. Go for cotton and breathable materials, and layer them up so you can take the layers off and not overheat. Also remember to pack a small towel to soak up sweat, as sweat can be salty and acidic, which could irritate your skin.
    3. “If it’s convenient, have an ice pack wrapped in a cotton towel waiting to cool your skin.
    4. “Swimming can be a great form of exercise that keeps your skin cool. When swimming, choose a clean, pH-neutral pool and test the water first (dipping a leg or arm in it), to check how you react to chlorine. Apply moisturizer and, if using, your topical medication, before and after.
    5. Clean up and shower as soon as possible after exerciseto help remove sweat and chemicals from your skin.
    6. If you have a flare, calm down for a few days. Lighter exercises that don’t overheat your skin will help your condition subside and you won’t increase the stress on your system. Exercise is extra stress on your body.
    7. Always wear sunscreen and be sure to use the best moisturizers and regimen for your skin – consult a dermatologist if you have access to it.’
    8. Enjoy your exercise, be competitive, but don’t let it increase your stress level. If you blame yourself for not running fast enough or lifting enough weight, for example, remind yourself how insignificant those metrics are.
    9. “Eating well is important for everyone. Nutrition alone won’t solve eczema problems, but reducing inflamed surfaces might help, and adding foods high in omega-3s (like nuts, fatty fish, and seeds) and collagen (like fish, chicken, and egg whites) can optimize skin health like an organ that needs fuel to renew itself.

      Hear Abby Tai talk more about her experience with eczema.

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