We all know regular exercise benefits our health. From cardiovascular protection, to healthy metabolism promotion, to energy, to increased resistance to illness, regular exercisers enjoy a plethora of benefits. All of the benefits are internal health and fitness; however exercise can improve the appearance of our skin—in a game-changing way. In fact, many doctors tell their patients that there’s no better fountain of youth pill than regular exercise.
1. Youth Hormone Production (DHEA, growth hormone)
There are two important “youth” hormones that play an essential role in keeping the skin smooth, supple, and elastic: human growth hormone (hGH) and Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). Maintaining a balanced level of human growth hormone (hGH) is responsible for youthful levels of skin collagen and thickness.
DHEA switches on multiple collagen-producing genes, while reducing expression of genes that are associated with production of keratinocytes, which is responsible for rough skin and calluses. This youth-promoting hormone also contributes to smooth, supple skin by maintaining production of sebum. DHEA also combats skin thinning, which if responsible for old “papery” appearance of aging skin.
Research shows that those who participate in regular exercise can maintain or even increase both hGH and DHEA levels. In one exercise study (that worked both fast and slow twitch muscles), hGH levels increased by 771% within 20 minutes of exercise!
Myokines, aka IL-15, are a category of small proteins that are released by muscle fibers. IL-15 affect the behavior of other cells, and act as a healthy growth factor for the skin. Youthful skin has a thick dermis layer, where collagen and elastin are found. The stratum corneum, which is the outer layer of the skin, is relatively thin and supple. Aging skin produces changing skin composition, with thinner dermis layer and thicker stratum corneums than those of their younger skin counterparts. In research, active exercisers were found to have a more youthful skin composition of both the dermis and stratum corneum layers, regardless of age. Scientists found significantly elevated levels—almost 50% more—of IL-15 in the skin samples of volunteers, after exercising, than the levels at the beginning of the study.
3. Inflammation Reduction
Inflammation is believed to be one of the primary causes of aging skin, promoting the appearance of wrinkles. Regular exercise offers protection against chronic low-grade systemic inflammation. In particular, exercise stimulates the circulation of certain anti-inflammatory cytokines (a class of small proteins), which inhibits the production of TNF-alpha, which is an inflammation-producing cytokine.
4. Better Sleep
Good quality sleep is essential for skin health. The majority of skin repair and growth factors are produced while you sleep. Disrupted sleep cycles can greatly inhibit proper skin health. Studies have shown that exercising at least 150 minutes per week can significantly improve the quality of your sleep, and in return, the quality of your skin. Adequate sleep also ensures adequate level of growth hormone, which as previously mentioned, is a hormone that’s associated with youthful skin.
5. Natural Oil Production
The natural oils in your skin not only keep it moist and glowing, but also offer a protective barrier, decreasing the incidence of irritation, itchiness, and infection. The sebaceous glands, which are responsible for producing oil in the skin, are influenced negatively by stress. Exercise decreases stress, promoting healthy oil sebaceous gland activity.
Working up a good sweat doesn’t just get you back in shape; it’s also extremely great for your skin. Sweating opens up your pores, and rids the skin of dirt, chemicals, and a lot of other things that don’t belong in it. As long as you shower after physical activity, sweat will assist the health and vibrancy of your skin.
All tissues in the body, including the skin, are benefited from proper oxygen intake. As we age, the body loses its ability to utilize oxygen for optimal metabolic processes. Some of these processes affected are skin repair, and the production of key components—such as collagen and elastin—that are responsible for the structural integrity of skin. Regular exercise greatly enhances the body’s ability to utilize oxygen, assisting in optimal conditions for skin processes
8. Blood Flow
Through its ability to increase blood flow, which in turn carries oxygen and vital nutrients to the skin, exercise nourishes the skin cells. Blood flow also funnels away waste products from skin cells. Although it’s the liver that detoxes the body, exercise can assist the process through blood flow by flushing cellular debris from the skin.
The mood-enhancing effects of exercise are well documented. Exercise decrease stress, improves anxiety, and fights depression. Stress has an enormously negative impact on all bodily functions, including the skin. Among the negative effects is stress’s connection to increased cortisol levels, which increases inflammation and inhibits proper cellular processes in the skin. Regular exercising prevents the damaging effects of stress on the skin, and the rest of the body.
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