Exercise and Psoriasis: Links and More

Physical activity can help improve psoriasis flare-ups and increase periods of remission. Activity can further reduce the risk of developing other diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.

Physical activity offers many health benefits, especially for people with psoriasis. This can help them maintain a moderate weight and reduce the risk of developing certain diseases, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

However, the sweat, heat, and stress of training can also trigger or worsen psoriasis symptoms. Pain and fatigue are also common issues that make exercising difficult for people with psoriasis.

This article explains how exercise can help with psoriasis and provides tips for effective and safe activities for people with psoriasis.

Psoriasis affects approximately 3.2% of the population of the United States and about 2-3% of the world’s population.

Other research suggests that psoriasis occurs in 3.6% of whites, 1.9% of African Americans, and 1.6% of Hispanics.

This condition occurs also among males and females.

It is an autoimmune skin condition that causes crusty, scaly patches called plaques to appear on the surface of the skin. These patches can appear red on fair skin and purple or purple on darker skin.

Areas concerned

Psoriasis plaques can appear anywhere, but usually appear as small patches on:

  • hands
  • feet
  • elbows
  • knees
  • neck
  • scalp

Learn more about the signs and symptoms of psoriasis here.

A person may alternate between periods of active disease, called flare-ups, and periods of inactivity or remission. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on the type of psoriasis a person has.

A person with psoriasis is also at a increased risk arthritis, depression, diabetes and heart disease.

Triggers

Specific triggers can cause symptoms to appear or worsen. These vary from person to person, but include:

Learn more about psoriasis in our dedicated hub.

The National Psoriasis Foundation recommends people with psoriasis get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise and weight lifting at least five times a week.

A study 2018 found that intense physical activity may help reduce the prevalence of psoriasis. He also indicated that exercise can also benefit a person’s mental health linked to the diagnosis of psoriasis and the impact on quality of life.

Another study 2018 found that diet and exercise effectively combat oxidative stressors and improve disease severity in people with psoriasis.

Obesity is a commmon cardiovascular risk factor in psoriatic disease. People with psoriasis may have low levels of physical activity, which puts them at risk to have a stroke.

Research suggests that exercise can help reduce weight and improve the severity of psoriasis in overweight people.

Impact on exercise

A study 2020 showed that people with psoriasis tend to avoid exercise because they are concerned about:

  • severity of psoriasis
  • skin sensitivity
  • treatments
  • what clothes to wear
  • participate in social and recreational activities in public

A person should speak with their doctor or dermatologist to explore exercise options suited to their skin’s needs.

Here are some tips to ensure a safe and effective workout.

Know what to avoid

As a general rule, avoid activities that cause flare-ups or pain. Low-impact, low-intensity workouts, such as a walk or bike ride, might be more appropriate.

Excessive sweating can trigger symptoms. People should avoid hot yoga and other exercises that cause excessive sweating. Inverse psoriasis is a form of psoriasis that occurs in areas where skin folds and sweat is a trigger that makes symptoms worse.

Some people experience stress as a result to have psoriasis, and, in turn, stress often worsen this condition.

Exercising too much or performing cardio or higher intensity workouts can trigger the body’s stress response.

High-intensity workouts aren’t for everyone because excessive exercise can make symptoms worse. However, people who manage their symptoms well can tolerate more rigorous exercise, such as running and high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

People with psoriatic arthritis, a potential complication of psoriasis, should avoid high-impact exercises that put too much strain on weakened joints. Instead, they can opt for low-impact activities, like swimming and bicycling.

Learn more about exercises for psoriatic arthritis here.

Choose appropriate clothes

Tight clothing can aggravate skin sensitivity, irritate the skin, and aggravate psoriasis patches during workouts.

Loose, breathable clothing and moisture-wicking fabrics help wick away moisture and allow it to evaporate quickly.

Learn more about the best clothes for workouts here.

Heating and cooling

Warming up before exercise is crucial to prepare muscles and reduce stiffness to avoid injury. Similarly, end activities with a good cool-down, such as light stretching or a slow walk.

Learn more about the benefits of stretching.

Stay consistent

Aim for consistency and frequency rather than duration. Physical activity can include taking the stairs instead of the elevator and walking for errands.

If a person feels stiff or tense, they can change their workouts and focus on a range of motion and flexibility exercises.

Learn more about stretching and flexibility here.

Hydrate

Exercising can make your skin sweat and lose moisture. A person needs to replenish lost fluids with proper hydration, which can help skin stay hydrated and prevent flare-ups in people with psoriasis.

Check out the benefits of staying hydrated here.

Set up a home gym

If a person doesn’t feel confident in a gym or if a flare is hampering their performance, they can exercise at home. There are many workout videos online, including strength training, yoga, and core workouts.

Check out the best home workouts here.

Speak with a healthcare professional

A person considering exercise for the first time could discuss the options with a doctor or healthcare professional. They may be able to offer advice on what to avoid or recommend an evaluation with a physical therapist.

Learn more about physiotherapy here.

  • Keep a diary: A person can write down every exercise or routine they do, write down how they feel, and track activities that cause flare-ups.
  • Start small: People can start small and slowly increase exercise duration and frequency as tolerated. A person concerned that exercise could trigger flare-ups might start with simple exercises. This change will help the body acclimate and prevent symptoms that trigger a person’s stress or anxiety.
  • Take rest days between: A person who performs activities in areas prone to inflammation must rest to allow the body to recover and not to overwork them.
    Find out why rest days are important.
  • Release tight muscles: Tight muscles can cause pain and increased inflammation. The use of foam rollers and massage can help release tension from these muscles.
    Learn what types of massages are effective.
  • Edit workouts: If any part of the workout makes symptoms worse, be flexible and modify it to maintain momentum. For example, a person can do a different exercise to target the same muscle if the current routine is causing pain or discomfort.
  • Change workout: A person doing high intensity exercise can transition to lower intensity training. Likewise, a person doing cardio can switch to strength training, which may cause less stress on the body. Alternatively, a person can opt for stretching if that is more appropriate.

Besides exercise, other alternative treatments can help manage psoriasis.

  • Diet: A balanced and nutritious diet is also a good option for maintaining a moderate weight. Try to include foods with anti-inflammatory properties, such as most fruits and vegetables, and reduce sugar, fatty and processed foods.
    Find out which foods trigger psoriasis.
  • Sun exposure : Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can slow the rapid growth of skin cells. However, if the skin is exposed too soon and for too long, sunburn can result, which could further damage the skin. It is essential to wear sunscreen to avoid sunburn.
    Find out if the sun is helpful for psoriasis.
  • Topical treatments: Over-the-counter and prescription topicals are the main treatments. Doctors can prescribe products containing coal tar, steroids, vitamin D, and salicylic acid.
    Learn more about other lotions and creams for psoriasis.
  • Complementary therapies: Massage, acupuncture and yoga can also help. Massage and acupuncture are known to relieve pain and muscle tension, which can be helpful for people with psoriatic arthritis.
  • Natural remedies: Creams or ointments that contain aloe vera, capsaicin, and tea tree oil can help soothe itching and reduce the flaking and redness of the patches
  • Phototherapy: Also known as light therapy, this treatment involves exposing the skin to UV light, which helps slow skin production and reduce pain, itching, and swelling in people with psoriasis.

Learn more about home remedies for psoriasis here.

Psoriasis is a lifelong disease. Although there is no cure, treatments and lifestyle changes, such as exercise and diet, can reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.

Psoriasis puts people at risk for other diseases that can affect their health and quality of life, including stroke, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.

Many factors can prevent a person with psoriasis from exercising. However, failure to do so can cause them to lose the health benefits that exercise can provide.

Exercise improves a person’s physical and mental health and can also reduce flare-ups and the risk of developing other health problems associated with psoriasis.

At the same time, a person needs to be aware of how they exercise, know what to avoid, and what to do when exercise causes a flare-up.

About Robert James

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