Exercise Your Body -- and Your Skin

Lifting weights, doing aerobic workouts, and stretching into a yoga pose all benefit your skin as well as your body

By Colette Bouchez
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Charlotte Grayson, MD

Most of the time, exercise conjures up images of losing weight, building muscle, and trimming thighs. But now, doctors say, another body part may benefit from regular workouts -- your skin.

Indeed, from reducing acne breakouts to fighting the signs of aging, health experts say regular exercise can play a big role in how young and how healthy your skin looks and feels.

"It's no secret that exercise has important benefits for the entire body. But what many people don't realize is that our skin is the largest organ of our body, and thus, the benefits can be enormous," says Audrey Kunin, MD, a Kansas City, Mo., dermatologist and author of The DERMAdoctor Skinstruction Manual.

Among them, says Kunin, is increased circulation and delivery of nutrients to skin cells, whooshing away potentially damaging toxins. Another is giving skin the optimum conditions for making collagen, the support fibers that help keep wrinkles and lines at bay.

But perhaps the most dramatic effects of exercise are on acne-prone skin. Doctors say working out provides many benefits that can help clear the skin. How? Exercise mediates the production of testosterone-related hormones such as DHEA and DHT.

"There's a lot of indirect evidence that shows that when you exercise your level of stress diminishes. So your adrenal glands are producing less of these male-type hormones that are part of any acne flare-up," says David Berman, MD, medical director and dermatologic/cosmetic surgeon at the Berman Skin Institute, Palo Alto, Calif., and former chief of dermatology at Santa Clara County Hospital.