The Lifestyle

Exercise Classes and your Skin

November 16, 2009
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Does exercise make your skin look younger? Science is just starting to investigate this question. Our skin is our largest organ taking up 16% of our body weight, so changing the makeup of our skin’s underlying muscles and simply raising our heart rate must certainly have a significant effect. But what, and how much? I was curious to find out what dermatologists and skin clinics agree is fact – and what is still speculation, so I looked into the current state of our knowledge on exercise’s effect on skin. Here’s what I found out:
MUSCLE DENSITYStrengthening your major muscle groups will improve the appearance of the skin above them. If you’ve been in Bar Method classes, think of your fellow students who have the most muscle definition. The skin on their arms usually looks smooth and silky due to the fact that the underlying muscles are lifted and firm. In this way strength-work usually improves the appearance of the skin on your arms and legs provided you stay hydrated and out of the sun. Don’t count on getting the same result on your face however. You can’t sculpt facial muscles. For this reason exercise won’t tighten the skin on your face, though it can give you more prominent cheek bones by shrinking the subcutaneous fat in your cheeks.

Some studies have found that exercise can reduce acne by lower stress hormones. Workouts, especially if they include stretching and systematic breathing, lessen the production of testosterone-related hormones. “By reducing stress,” says Dr. David Berman, a dermatologic surgeon, “there is less hormone output which in turn helps control acne.” The catch is that the heat and sweat that are an inevitable byproduct of exercise can counteract this benefit. The Bar Method is optimal on this front because it reduces stress without producing the kind of heat and sweat you get with aerobics.

Exercise increases blood flow to your skin. Better circulation gained from exercise gives you prettier skin tone. It also enables cuts and lesions to heel faster, and it delivers nutrients to your skin more efficiently than if you didn’t work out. Aerobics is great for flooding your skin with oxygen. Strength work is best at maintaining good circulation all day long by adding oxygen-rich muscle density under your skin. Meanwhile the jury is still out on some claims that have been made about exercise’s power to change skin. We don’t really know whether or not exercise out can reduce cellulite, smooth facial wrinkles, or rid your body of toxins.

INTERVAL TRAININGI’m looking forward to the day when science turns its lens on such workouts as the Bar Method and confirms what I’ve observed for years: that it’s doing something good for students’ skin. Scientists are now offering some preliminary evidence that intense interval training routines like the Bar Method stimulate the production of growth hormone, an anti-aging substance. The active ingredient within the interval training format is its ability to keep muscles burning for minutes at a time, which is not the case with conventional strength routines. (Read more about Interval Training News.) The Bar Method’s special brand of interval training adds the benefits of being non-impact and stress-reducing. Bar Method students in their 50s and 60s who’ve been taking class awhile, based on my observation, have exceptionally youthful-looking skin. Is this a result, at least in part, of their workout? I will be interested to hear what science has to say.

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