Dry, itchy skin, can be bothersome and impact daily activities. Exercise is an important lifestyle factor that can establish a foundation for health. Below is a look at the connection between exercise and sensitive dry skin in eczema and rosacea.
Exercise Intensity and Sensitive Skin Conditions
Sweating is an aggravating factor for eczema patients because it makes their skin itch more. Patients with eczema may not engage in physical activity to avoid worsening of their symptoms. Choosing to not exercise could potentially put eczema patients at risk for obesity and heart disease.[3,4] The intensity at which the exercise is done may determine the severity of the symptoms.[3,5]
Vigorous Intensity Exercise
Vigorous intensity exercise is defined as three or more metabolic equivalents or METs. One MET is the amount of oxygen the body uses when it is sitting at rest. An example of vigorous physical activity is running.
Vigorous physical activity may aggravate eczema symptoms. In a questionnaire of one-hundred patients with eczema, 97% said that sweating made their skin itch worse. A study looking at mice saw that with high-intensity swimming exercises, the mice were more likely to experience a worsening of their symptoms.
Strenuous exercise is a trigger for rosacea patients. Patients with erythematotelangiectatic rosacea find physical exercise in the form of “carrying and lifting” leads to worsening of their rosacea symptoms. In order for more blood to get to the muscles and tissues in exercise, blood vessels have to expand. The enlarged blood vessels naturally cause a flushing of the face. Physical activity can cause a worsening of the facial redness of rosacea patients due to the natural widening of the blood vessels, along with the inflammatory nature of rosacea.[10,11] Exercise can also cause a burning or stinging pain in the face of rosacea patients. Blood vessels become leakier in rosacea which allows more blood flow to face also causing the flushing.
Light Intensity Exercise
Light exercise is defined as less than three METs, where one MET is the amount of oxygen that is being consumed when sitting quietly in a room. Examples of light exercise are walking and gardening.
Lower intensity workouts may not be associated with aggravating dry, itchy skin. Children who had been swimming one or more times a week did not see a worsening of their eczema symptoms. Another study that looked at individuals who had been exercising regularly, but not necessarily at a high intensity, had a lower incidence of eczema in general.
Environmental Factors for Outdoor Exercise and Sensitive Skin Conditions
Independent from the intensity of exercise, the location where the exercise takes place, may contribute to eczema symptoms.[15,16] If the exercise takes place outside, there may be other factors that can make eczema worse, such as air pollutants and weather.[15,16] Working out in warmer temperatures may aggravate the symptoms of eczema by increasing the amount of sweating which causes the skin to become more irritated and itchy.
UVB radiation could cause worsening of rosacea symptoms. Being in warm environments can increase the facial redness associated with rosacea. Cooler temperatures were marked in surveys to relieve the irritation of rosacea and constant flushing of the face.
Table 1: Summary of Aggravating and Non-Aggravating Factors in Eczema and Rosacea
Vigorous Intensity Exercise
Light Intensity Exercise
Take an Individualized Approach
Although exercise aids in increasing quality of life, and potentially decrease depression in patients with eczema, there are many factors that are involved, which can vary widely. The severity of the eczema is one of the biggest factors that determine the level of exercise that can be performed comfortably. The intensity of the exercise may also play a role, as well as potential irritants, temperature, and pollutants in the environment.[3,5,7,8,14-16] An individualistic approach needs to be completed to determine the extent to which eczema and rosacea patients can engage in exercise, and further research is warranted to figure out other variables.
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