According to a recent article, people with atopic dermatitis are less likely to exercise than those without an eczematous condition. Since sweat, rapid temperature changes, and dry skin are some of the most common triggers for itching and irritation, and fatigue is common for those whose sleep is disturbed by itching, it is easy to understand why people with any type of eczema would avoid physical activity.
However, lack of exercise can contribute to the development of other conditions such as obesity, osteoporosis, heart disease, diabetes, and depression. Exercise also helps fight inflammation and reduce stress, both of which contribute to eczema flares. Anxiety and depression are also common in people with eczema; physical activity can improve mood. For these reasons, exercise is an important part of staying healthy for people with eczema.
What does it involve?
Always check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen.
Whatever type of exercise you choose, follow these general safety guidelines. Apply moisturizer before exercising to protect your skin. Always begin your workout session with a gradual warm-up and take the time to cool down afterward. Avoid irritating your skin by wearing loose clothing to avoid uncomfortable rubbing. Some people with eczema may find 100 percent cotton most comfortable; others may prefer sweat-wicking synthetic fabrics. Stay hydrated with plenty of cool liquids, choosing beverages without caffeine. Take frequent breaks to cool down and hydrate. You may also use cold compression wraps or cooling towels to moderate your temperature during activity. While exercising, listen to your eczema. If you feel an area beginning to flare up, immediately take a break to hydrate, cool down, and apply moisturizer. After exercising, take a tepid bath or shower, then apply moisturizers. Exercise should be somewhat challenging, but never a struggle.
It is important to choose a type of exercise you will enjoy. Many types of exercise can be done at home. If you feel comfortable doing so, consider joining a class to keep you motivated and incorporate social aspects. If you exercise indoors, make sure the space is well-ventilated and not too hot.
Aerobic exercise keeps your heart healthy, increases your strength, mobility, and balance, and improves bowel function. Resistance training such as weight-lifting builds muscle strength and healthy bones as well as making you less prone to injury and quicker to recover from injuries. Stretching activities such as yoga can improve flexibility, strength, and range of motion as well as relaxing your muscles. Exercise can lessen depression and promote social interaction.
Aerobic exercise can take many forms. Walking on a treadmill, riding a stationary or recumbent bike, or swimming can all provide effective exercise for your heart and lungs.
Resistance training such as lifting weights can be done seated, and it can involve as light a weight as you can lift comfortably. Even small amounts of weight or resistance provide benefits.
Many people benefit from water exercises such as swimming laps or doing water aerobics. Water also provides some natural resistance to movement, increasing the effectiveness of even very gentle movements. Disinfectants added to pool water – chlorine, bromine, or salt – may irritate some people’s eczema and improve others’. If disinfectants irritate your skin, ask the pool manager when the disinfectant is added, and do your swimming hours later, after the chemical has evaporated. You can also apply a layer of thicker moisturizer to protect your skin before swimming.
Yoga consists of moving your body into an array of different positions that provide stretching and various levels of challenge for strength, flexibility, and balance. There are many types of yoga and many different teaching styles. Bikram yoga, which is done in a heated room, may promote sweating and exacerbate eczema, but most yoga is done at normal room temperature.
Daily activities such as shopping, gardening, or walking a pet can also provide safe, valuable exercise.
It is important not to become discouraged early on when beginning an exercise regimen. Set attainable goals and focus on finding ways of staying active that are safe, enjoyable and easy to do regularly.
Exercise can help you achieve and maintain your best condition. A regular exercise regimen can reduce muscle pain and stiffness, preserve range of motion, increase strength and well-being, promote a healthy weight, stave off heart disease and diabetes, and improve your mood and self-esteem. It can help you avoid injury and recover more quickly.
Research shows that regular exercise helps people maintain a healthy weight, stave off many types of chronic illness, and reduce inflammation and stress.
Temperature changes and sweating caused by exercise may contribute to eczema flares in some people.
Some eczema symptoms, such as fatigue and itching, can make it difficult to stay motivated to keep up with exercise. Side effects of medication can also interfere.
Those with eczema on hands or feet may find some types of exercise difficult.
Exercise may cause sore muscles.
Those with a disability or spinal problems should take extra care to prevent injury while exercising. Choose exercises that can be modified for your safety.
Depending on where you live, it may be difficult to travel to group exercise classes.
For more information, visit:
Eczema and Exercise – National Eczema Association
Atopic dermatitis is associated with less physical activity in US adults – Journal of Investigative Dermatology