Does exercise improve your skin?

Many moons ago, fully clad in colour co-ordinated lycra and not so jelly legged, I used to take part in races. I started with the odd mountain bike race pre ’thing 1’, (my eldest is totally Dr. Seuss obsessed), which surprisingly I enjoyed, despite a complete lack of any chance of winning. Then once I had my first son, I decided to take up running. I had always maintained ‘I cannot run’ but as it turns out, when the other option is stay at home with a screaming, breastfeeding obsessed newborn, running seemed like a doddle. After a lot of hard work and effort, I decided I could run. I also decided that I felt so free and calm, even with my heavy breathing and feet pounding on the grass. After a while, I joined my local triathlon club, GOG’s, and so my journey into swim, bike, run began. I felt I was a competent cyclist since I began years ago but swimming, that was another story. I wrongly assumed I was a strong swimmer as I had completed a mile open water swim previously. That was until I rocked up, bleary eyed, to my first club swim session and much to my horror, no one seemed to share my love for head out breaststroke. I took some time and invested in lessons and practice. I improved massively and although I don’t glide up and down the lanes in my spare time, I love to painfully squeeze into my wetsuit and get outdoors.

What has this to do with the clinic? I’m getting to it. My second son came along and the long process of getting fit and healthy again has begun. Although the journey is tough, the principles of getting fit are relatively well understood, the relationship with exercise and our skin is not so. Time and time again, I see athletes cycling 50+ miles without a mere drop of sun protection on their skin. I take the time to wonder why but the truth is, I know why. It’s because its overcast and you cannot get burnt unless its July or August right? I see the long term problems with that in both of my professional roles, with skin cancer and hyperpigmentation. You don‘t get to choose which either. I see flare ups of adult acne because of sweaty helmets, collecting a wonderful reservoir of grime. I see broken and dry skin because of PH altering pool chemicals, not being washed off, whilst our hair is treated to a spa session post swim in the changing rooms. I see congested pores because on race day, we turn to skin stripping chemical sun protection, but what about post race? Your measure of success as an athlete is not by how damaged your skin is. Your skin should reflect your commitment to your training sessions. It should reflect your strength, your health and your passion for all things athletic. Taking the time to look after your skin, which I’m sure you’ll agree it deserves, given how well it looks after you, doesn’t have to mean having a facial every week and needing that lottery win to afford a decent skincare regime.

Exercise and sport is actually very beneficial for our skin. The circulation pumping round forces oxygen and nutrients into the skin. Additionally, it removes toxins and waste. This can help to give us radiant glow, so to answer the question, yes, exercise does improve your skin, but only if you look after it correctly. Race season might be on hold this year but that’s no excuse to neglect your skin. Train hard, stay protected, feel confident and look amazing while you do it.

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