Exercise makes us fit, happy and – yes – attractive. Scientists have for years been researching the feel-good effect of physical activity on our body and mind. Now, they’re finding a growing number of signs that exercise also boosts our skin’s beauty. Regular fitness, studies suggest, is helping our skin. It can erase wrinkles and make us look young and radiant.
Need some convincing? This article serves up some white-coat science to help you understand why exercise should take a fixed place in your beauty routine. It may be the cheapest anti-ageing ritual you ever come across.
How exercise gives your skin some glow:
The feelgood effect
Running, and in fact any other activity that gets your heartbeat up increases the flow of oxygen in your body. And your brain loves oxygen. It releases endorphins in return – our body’s own feelgood hormones that reward us for physical activity and motivate us to keep going. Endorphins make us feel calm and positive, suppressing pain and giving us a natural high that manifests on the outside in form of a radiant, healthy glow.
The sweat factor
Even though you might feel exhausted after a heavy workout, your skin radiates a fresh zest of good health. Why? As you’re sweating, all sorts of toxins and impurities are flushed out of the skin’s pores. Strictly speaking, exercise doesn’t detoxify the skin – this job belongs mostly to the liver. But exercising helps to remove cellular debris from the system, cleansing your skin from the inside out.
The stress balm
Your skin can get just as stressed as your mind. It suffers as you enjoy lunch in the midday sun, navigate heavy inner-city traffic and join business meetings in the smog-filled metropoles from Shanghai to Singapore.
A growing amount of research (see here and here and here) shows pollution can harm the skin as much as the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. City air is full of nanosized toxic particles that penetrate your pores. They weaken the skin’s natural defence against so-called free radicals – nasty airborne molecules that damage our cells. Healthy skin is armed with antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E, which fend off free radical attacks. But smog, cigarette smoke and other dirt in the air can deplete the skin’s antioxidants, allowing free radicals to take the upper hand. Experts call this harmful imbalance ‘oxidative stress’.
Squeeze some exercise into your beauty routine to relieve this stress. While intense and exhaustive physical activity can contribute to oxidative damage, science says regular moderate exercise can restore your body’s antioxidant reserves, which help protect cells.
The smoothie cure
Looking wise beyond your years may have once got your underage self into a night club. At some point in our lives, however, most people wish they could arrest the ageing process. Their skin gets wrinkly, spotty and saggy as collagen levels drop, which is the protein that keeps our skin supple and elastic.
Collagen is your friend if you’re after an even-toned, youthful complexion. Your body produces more collagen when you exercise regularly. Exercise can also contribute to smoother skin because it helps to heal skin inflammations including acne and eczema. And it can fight premature skin ageing: exercise improves the blood flow, which sparks skin cells to rejuvenate.
The muscle toner
Firm muscles make for firmer skin. They can also reduce the appearance of cellulite. Go for a surf. Hold your yoga pose a minute longer. Practice handstands. Build your muscle tone and naturally strengthen your body – and your skin.
Shine on under the sunshine.
Experts agree that it’s a great idea to head outside to exercise whenever you can. Training under the open sky can boost your mental health beyond the effects of indoor gyms. Studies show that exercising in nature can beat depression. And a bit of sunshine increases your body’s vitamin D levels, which also lifts our mood. Careful, though: too much sun exposure is poison for your skin. It makes you look older faster and increases your skin cancer risk. Sunscreens with broad spectrum filter (against both UVA and UVB rays) are the best protection against sun damage.
Stuck in a big city with few trees in between a maze of congested roads? Protect your skin against the tiny pollutants from traffic fumes and smog with an extra beauty shield. The market for anti-pollution skincare is evolving rapidly, and the new global quality standard Pollution Protection Factor (PPF) helps consumers discern fluffy marketing claims from lab-tested truths.
You can use anti-pollution mists and sprays on top of your sunscreen to protect your skin from air pollution while you’re in the great outdoors.