Overtraining and its Effects on Your Skin

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Regular exercise is a well-known component of overall health and well-being, and we have all heard that it positively affects our cardiovascular system, and strengthens our muscles and bones. Most would agree that physical activity makes us feel better, and scientific evidence even shows that exercise can reduce stress and improve anxiety and depression.[1] Did you know that according to scientific research, regular aerobic activity may actually decrease chronic inflammation and signs of aging, leading to improved skin health?[2] The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans suggests adults should aim for at least 2.5 hours of aerobic activity every week,[3] and there are many different modes of exercise to choose from to fulfill this criteria. Regular exercise can improve our health in many ways, but too much exercise can become detrimental and harm our bodies, which can be reflected in our skin.


What Is Overtraining?

There is a line that can be crossed when exercise stops providing fantastic health benefits, and instead becomes excessive to the point of becoming harmful. Overtraining syndrome occurs when the body is overworked and muscles are over-exerted for an extended duration of time.[4] This condition is common in long distance runners, and can eventually result in depletion of nutrients and hormones required to maintain health and allow for recovery. In Overtraining Syndrome, there is an imbalance between training and recovery, leading to symptoms of fatigue, short temper, anxiety, memory loss, and difficulty focusing.


How Can Overtraining Impact Skin Health?

Intense physical activity is a form of stress. Similar to extreme emotional or mental stress, physical stress activates a cascade of hormones, especially a stress hormone called cortisol. When cortisol becomes chronically elevated, as it can become in overtraining syndrome, it can begin to wreak havoc on your skin.[5] In fact, excessive stress has even been documented to worsen acne,[6]psoriasis,[7] and eczema.[8]

In addition to detrimental effects of excessive physical stress, overtraining can also put you at higher risk for dehydration if your fluids are not adequately replenished. Dehydration can lead to dry skin and poor skin barrier function.[9]

It is extremely important to implement a regular exercise schedule into your life. However, if you experience pain with exercise or believe you may have symptoms of overtraining, it is important to speak with your doctor.


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