Photo Credit: Dougal Waters
Having psoriasis doesn’t mean you can’t work out, but to exercise comfortably you may need to do a little planning before you hit the gym or the running trail. “Two big challenges tend to arise for people with psoriasis when they exercise,” says Patty Colman, a member of the Los Angeles Walk to Cure committee for the National Psoriasis Foundation who rarely misses a workout, even when her psoriasis is flaring. “One is that the increased circulation to the skin can make it look especially red and attention-drawing. The other challenge is that your skin can start to feel really hot.”
But don’t let these minor drawbacks stop you from exercising. The benefits far outweigh them! Here, Colman’s tips for staying comfortable with psoriasis while you stay in shape:
Keep covered and cool. Look for loose-fitting workout clothes in thin, lightweight fabrics to help prevent you from overheating. Colman’s favorite T-shirts are 93 percent cotton and 7 percent spandex. She buys them one size larger than her usual size so that the sleeves are long and the shirt is comfortable. As for bottoms, “Yoga pants or sweats are perfect,” says Colman.
Bottoms up! Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and keep your skin supple and soft.
Have a spritzer. Bring along a spray bottle filled with water and mist your skin if you start feeling hot. “When the psoriasis on my arms is flaring, my skin can feel very tight,” says Colman. “Spritzing it with water relieves that feeling.”
Camouflage outbreaks. Consider wearing body makeup if you’re self-conscious about exposing your skin while you work out. Colman applies Dermablend base makeup to her psoriasis when her skin is flaring. (For more tips on using makeup to conceal psoriasis, see Makeup Magic: Looking Better with Psoriasis.)
Be sun wise. If you’re exercising outside, wear sunscreen, but talk to your doctor about how and when to apply it. Some physicians suggest exposing skin to sunlight for a few minutes before putting on sunscreen in order to get some of the healing benefits of ultraviolet rays—but you never want to get a sunburn, which could lead to a flare.
Don’t overdo it. Too much exercise can stress the immune system—not a good idea when you have an immune system disorder. Moderate activities such as brisk walking, stationary cycling or swimming for 30 to 60 minutes three or more times a week are usually safe and doable for most people.
Mix it up. Choose activities to accommodate your breakouts. If you usually enjoy yoga, for example, but certain postures put too much pressure on your skin when it’s flaring, ask your instructor for alternative moves, or try something that won’t put pressure on your skin, such as swimming or jogging (if your feet aren’t affected).
Seal in moisture. After your workout, shower and apply body lotion or cream to your skin while it’s still damp. This will both soothe your skin and lock in moisture to keep it hydrated. Ask your dermatologist to recommend a good product for your skin.