Exercise helps to nourish skin cells by increasing blood flow that carries oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Besides the conventional benefits, studies have revealed a link between skin health and exercise.
Deep skin benefits of exercise
At a molecular level, skin cells contain mitochondria. Mitochondria are organelles that produce the energy necessary for a cell’s survival. The mitochondria play an important role in making a chemical known as ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP is needed for the processes that restore skin cells, provide healing and rejuvenation, and aid in decreasing wrinkles.1
With age, ATP production declines, and the skin’s metabolic function slows. During exercise, ATP is continuously synthesized and broken down. This action stimulates several mechanisms, including glucose uptake into cells and improvements to mitochondrial function.2
While aging is inevitable, how we age can be managed. Evidence leads to the idea that exercise may have a positive effect on aging by improving impaired mitochondrial function.2
Exercise and wound healing
A comparison of older age athletes and adults who lived a sedentary lifestyle highlighted that those who were athletes had better skin conditions.3 Apart from maintaining and improving skin health, exercise promotes wound healing.
Older exercisers (athletes) were examined for the wound healing rate compared to non-exercisers.4 The speed at which wound healing occurred in the non-exercise group was considerably slower; The athletes had a higher rate of recovery.4
Further studies examined exercise as an intervention for adults with venous leg ulcers.5 The exercise group, in conjunction with standard care, was shown to produce more positive outcomes relating to quality of life and skin repair.5
Exercise prevents skin injury
Exercise improves the skin’s ability to retain moisture.6 Having moisturized skin helps to protect the skin from cuts and other injuries that could lead to infections.
It was found that after a single high-intensity exercise session, the skin’s outer layer (stratum corneum) had an increased hydration concentration.6 Furthermore, long-term endurance exercise improved the thickness of the stratum corneum, adding to the penetrability of the skin.6
Exercise for skin health and prevention
The research discussed demonstrates links between exercise, skin health, prevention from injury, and a higher quality of life. While the studies did not specify one activity over another, a clear takeaway is the importance of incorporating exercise into your lifestyle to maintain and uphold healthy skin.
1. Stout R, Birch-Machin M. Mitochondria’s role in skin ageing. Biology. 2019; 8:29.
2. Hood DA, Memme JM, Oliveira AN, Triolo M. Maintenance of skeletal muscle mitochondria in health, exercise, and aging. Annual Review of Physiology. 2019;81:19-41.
3. Crane JD, MacNeil LG, Lally JS, Et al. Exercise-stimulated interleukin-15 is controlled by AMPK and regulates skin metabolism and aging. Aging Cell. 2015;14: 625-634.
4. Emery CF, Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Glaser R, Malarkey WB, Frid DJ. Exercise accelerates wound healing among healthy older adults: A preliminary investigation. The Journals of Gerontology. Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences. 2005;60:1432-1436.
5. O’Brien J, Finlayson K, Kerr G, Edwards H. Evaluating the effectiveness of a self-management exercise intervention on wound healing, functional ability and health-related quality of life outcomes in adults with venous leg ulcers: A randomised controlled trial. International Wound Journal. 2017;14:130-137.
6. Oizumi R, Sugimoto Y, Aibara H. The association between activity levels and skin moisturizing function in adults. Dermatology Reports. 2021;13.