Every article or book you read about exercise tells you about the countless benefits exercise has on your body. It’s almost cliche at this point. One thing you might not know however, is that lifting weights or going for a run can also help prevent and undo skin damage that causes aging. Yep – you read that right.
In her new book, Why You’re Sick and Tired and How to Look and Feel Amazing (Harlequin), trainer Jackie Warner writes that recent research shows that working your muscles increases the production of collagen cells and stimulates the production of growth hormone, which can repair the connections between your skin and muscle, “giving you a tight, toned appearance.” Can’t beat that.
“As a 46 year-old, I’m constantly told that I don’t look anywhere close to my age,” says Warner, “and I really think that’s because I have made fitness a priority in my life.” In addition to seeing results in her own face, Warner says that her mom, who just started a regular workout routine last year, has also seen results. “She’s 64 and she looks like she’s 50 again since she started working out five days a week,” says Warner. “It really does make a difference.”
Not only that, all sweat sessions that increase your heart rate and blood flow result in these benefits, says dermatologist David Bank, M.D., director of the Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic, and Laser Surgery. By getting your heart rate and blood flow up, these types of exercise “deliver more nutrients, like vitamins and oxygen, to the skin cells all over your face and body,” he says.
That increase in vitamins and oxygen to your skin cells helps them reproduce and enables the repair mechanisms in your skin to undo damage from years past, he says. Plus, those nutrients feed the fibroblast cells in the skin that produce collagen so they can make more of the wrinkle-fighting nutrient, says Bank.
As Warner mentioned, resistance training can further boost your skin’s youthful appearance since it increases the production of growth hormone. This handy hormone is produced by the pituitary gland in your brain, and some studies show that it can aid cell repair, says Bank. It can also influence the fibroblast cells to create more collagen, he says. In short: You get collagen, you get collagen, you get collagen—if you work out.
That’s not all. Since exercise reduces the production of stress hormones—which can cause blood vessels to constrict and impair healing—when you work out, you’re minimizing the damage stress does to your face, as well as increasing the flow of those good nutrients your skin loves, says Bank.
Banks says people who hit the gym about four times a week are setting themselves up for youthful-looking faces as they age. The bad news is that you probably won’t be able to tell if it’s working until you start aging.
But in a recent study by McMaster University, researchers discovered that participants over the age of 40 who were active for at least three hours a week had skin on their booties that was similar to that of someone in their 20s and 30s—even in someone as old as 65, according to The New York Times. If that’s not motivation to keep working up a sweat, maybe nothing is.
If you haven’t been regularly exercising, you could notice smoother and brighter skin after kicking off a new, consistent workout routine in three to six months, says Banks. And while the results won’t be as dramatic as a facelift or injections, they will be healthier for your face, he says. “Getting a procedure doesn’t improve the health of your skin like exercising can because it doesn’t boost collagen, improve blood flow, or stimulate growth hormone.”
Who can argue with a healthy routine that is easier on the pocketbook and good for your overall wellness – that also helps keep you looking younger and feeling great?