An active lifestyle leads to optimum health. It is important for cardiovascular health, weight control, stress reduction, and the release of endorphins which is important for reducing stress levels. But an eczema sufferer might wonder how it is possible to manage exercise without exacerbating an already difficult skin condition.
It is important not to let eczema restrict quality of life, so the key is to find ways to exercise without overheating and to manage sweat.
The Sweat Conundrum
Sweating occurs as part of the body’s way of moderating its temperature. When overheating begins, the body sweats in order to cool off. As sweat evaporates, the surface of the skin cools. Unfortunately, the moisture, the main component of sweat, and the evaporation process cause skin irritation.
Perspiration is made up of water, minerals, sodium, urea, and lactate. The loss of fluids coupled with the sodium in the sweat dehydrates the skin and causes stinging, itchiness, and general irritation. There are ways to prepare for this reaction that can help but perhaps most important is to rinse off immediately after exercising.
And lots of it. The more water you drink, the more diluted the minerals and sodium in your sweat will be and will cause less irritation. Drink lots of water before, during, and after exercise. Eczema sufferers should stay hydrated as much as possible since they have inherently drier skin.
Applying emollients can protect your skin in advance from losing moisture during exercise. Moisturize approximately an hour before exercise. Then moisturize again after showering to replace any moisture lost during physical activity.
Choose Strategic Clothing
Picking the right exercise clothing will minimize skin irritation when the body heats up. Although many close fitting exercise garments are available as well as ‘moisture wicking’ fabrics that are meant to draw moisture away from the skin, these were not designed with eczema in mind. Avoid spandex, particularly around the waistline. Light, breathable fabrics are ideal. Eczema sufferers are better off wearing 100% tencel® or 100% cotton clothing including loose fitting t-shirts, but personal choice is important so choose what is right for you. It is important that the fabric doesn’t rub or scratch during activity.
Be Sensitive to Your Skin During Exertion
If you feel yourself overheating or beginning to sweat, take a break. Use the break to drink some water, cool down, and perhaps do a little stretching. It is important to stay realistic about your skin’s condition while you exercise and to adapt accordingly.
Regulating body temperature is very important. Extreme temperatures are one of the leading causes of eczema flares, so avoiding extreme heat or extreme cold is key.
Keep a towel on hand to dry off periodically. Patting dry, as opposed to wiping dry, is less likely to irritate eczema. A variety of cooling towels are available in today’s market that are great for regulating body temperature.
Skip the Hot Showers & Baths
Many gyms have hot tubs, steam rooms, and saunas in addition to their shower facilities. While the heat can be great for muscles, it is terrible for eczema. Rinse off soon after exercise so that sweat doesn’t dry on the skin. Use a moderate temperature and towel dry and moisturize immediately afterwards. It is also better to use your own tested, tried, and true soaps and moisturizers rather than what might be provided at the gym. Put your favorite products into travel sized containers to take along with you.
Experiment with your Exercise Routine
Finding the right form of exercise might take some experimentation. If one form of exercise, such as running, causes too much friction of your clothing against your skin, try something different. There is not one type of exercise that is definitely better over another for eczema sufferers. It is all about finding what works best for you.
Weight training is important for your muscles and bone density and will cause less friction and overheating than cardiovascular exercises, so alternate your cardio workouts with strength training. Don’t underestimate the power of walking; it is great exercise and won’t cause overheating as much as some other more demanding forms of exercise. Tai Chi, Pilates, and yoga (though not hot yoga) are all terrific for the body as well as the mind and spirit.
What About Swimming?
Naturally, many eczema sufferers worry about chlorine. While many people do react to chlorine, others find it has a positive effect on the skin, much like a bleach bath. When you begin swimming, start with a shorter period of time spent in the pool to see how you react. Gradually increase your time in the pool after your first visit. Use ample moisturizer and emollient after swimming.
Exercise is important for stress management, and stress itself is proven to have a negative effect on eczema. By exercising, you’ll improve your mood which will be helpful for your skin. There are so many benefits to exercise; with a little trial and error you can find ways to exercise while balancing body temperature and managing perspiration. It is a delicate game of adaptation and compromise, but one definitely worth playing.
Please remember information on our blog is not designed or meant to replace a physician’s advice. Always consult your doctor about your medical conditions. AD RescueWear does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.