It’s important for your overall health and well-being to stay active and to participate in fitness activities. Exercise boosts energy levels and your immune system to help lower stress and anxiety. But for many eczema sufferers, perspiration tends to irritate skin that is already inflamed and itchy. So, what can you do to enjoy the healthy benefits of exercise without that painful eczema itch? Here are a few suggestions:
Pick Your Gym Carefully
Have you ever seen someone dripping with sweat hop off the elliptical without wiping down the equipment? Disgusting! Before joining your nearby gym, visit the location to observe their cleaning practices. Does the gym have sanitizing wipes in multiple locations? If so, watch to see if gym goers actually use them. Does the gym have adequate air circulation? Look for facilities that crank down the air conditioning and use fans to circulate the air. Trust your nose! If it smells musky and moldy, it’s likely that the facility is not being cleaned properly or as frequently as necessary. Lastly, visit the locker room to check for cleanliness.
Hit the Shower
After you have found a gym with a clean locker room, there are several things you can do with your shower routine that will help reduce eczema flair ups.
Most importantly, take a shower immediately after your work out. As sweat evaporates, it leaves a salty residue that can dehydrate your skin. It’s important to rinse off quickly to avoid that nagging eczema itch that comes along with a good sweat.
Bring your own shampoo, soap, towels and flip flops. Generic bath soaps and commercial-grade laundry detergent can really irritate sensitive skin, so pack your own supplies.
Take a cold shower. After a great work out, a cold shower is a welcomed treat. A hot shower can irritate and dry out your skin, so keep it cool and dry off entirely. Follow-up with a fragrance-free body butter or lotion to quench your skin.
Wear the Right Apparel
Workout wear is more fashionable than ever. But before you step into your yoga pants, read the label inside. Most workout clothing is made with synthetic fabrics such as polyester, rayon, nylon and spandex. These fabrics are great for comfort, but synthetics can be very irritating if you have sensitive skin. Natural fabrics, made from cotton and bamboo, are better for your skin, but they don’t wick away sweat like many synthetics. They can cause you to get hotter and sweat even more. So, what is the happy medium? A good rule of thumb is to look for light-weight, breathable fabrics that are a blend of both natural and synthetic fibers, so you can get the best both.
Another apparel suggestion is to pay attention to the size and cut of your workout attire. Tight clothing can trap sweat against your skin and cause further irritation. And, long sleeved shirts and pants can trap body heat which can cause you to sweat even more. In addition to finding a blended fabric, look for looser cuts with short sleeves or tank tops so your skin can breathe.
Perks of Perspiration
Yes, for many eczema sufferers, sweat can cause skin flair ups. But that doesn’t mean you should avoid a great work out and the many benefits of sweat. Perspiration helps to remove toxins from your body, fight inflammation and in some cases can act as a barrier to bacteria.
Less Sweaty Exercise Options
But if you find the eczema itch to be unbearable with a sweaty work out, give these alternatives a try.
A gentle yoga class can do wonders for your core and overall muscle tone without the high impact that usually causes you to sweat. We also recommend investing in your own yoga mat that you can clean with sanitizers that you know won’t irritate your skin.
If yoga isn’t your thing, how about weight machines or free weights? You can really tone your muscles with this non-aerobic approach.
Lastly, consider swimming. Chlorine can really dry out your skin, but you may find a pool in your area that uses a combination of saltwater and chlorine which can be better for people with sensitivities. Regardless of how the pool is cleaned, shower immediately after your swim and apply a good moisturizer to offset the negative effects of pool chemicals.
Benefits Outweigh the Bad
Just because you suffer from eczema doesn’t mean that you should avoid the healthy benefits of exercise. The increase in blood flow and endorphins throughout your body will help heal you from the inside out. So, lace up your running shoes, put on your yoga pants, grab your goggles and enjoy a great work out. Your mind and body will thank you for it.