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An Exerciser’s Guide to Skin Care

Can Workouts Cause Breakouts?

— By Erin Whitehead, SparkPeople Contributor

There’s no disputing the fact that exercise is good for the human body. So it stands to reason that exercise would also benefit the body’s largest organ: its skin. But does working up a sweat actually do anything good for your skin—or make you more prone to breakouts?
 
Exercise and Acne: Is There a Connection?
While your heart, lungs, muscles and bones arguably gain the most benefit from exercise, the positives of leading an active life aren’t a stranger to your skin. In fact, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), exercise increases blood flow to the surface of your skin and brings oxygen and nutrients to your whole body—skin included.
 
Then there’s the other benefit of exercise: sweating. Sweat is made mostly of water, with small amounts of ammonia, urea, salts and sugar. When you sweat, these impurities are flushed from your skin. But what does that mean for people who are prone to acne? It might help, but it doesn’t necessarily hurt, say the experts at the Children’s Hospital of Colorado (CHC). Sweat in itself neither fights acne nor causes it; but the increased blood flow, unclogging of pores from sweating, and stress reduction that result from exercise may all benefit the acne sufferer, says the CHC.
 
While working out can be beneficial to your overall skin health, you’ll want to avoid doing anything to exacerbate existing skin problems or cause irritation. Avoid wearing clothing that rubs against your skin during exercise, and if you wear a helmet, hat, sunglasses or other protective equipment while you move, clean it often as these sweaty surfaces can collect dirt and oil that can be transferred to your skin.
 
Exercising or not, you should always avoid touching your face to prevent blemishes and clogged pores. Be especially aware of this when you’re working out. Touching your face can transfer oil and bacteria (which thrive in moist, humid environments like the gym) to the skin, leading to possible acne flare-ups. If you need to wipe excess sweat, blot your skin with a clean, dry towel and avoid rubbing or wiping the skin with your hands, shirt or towel.
 
For those with longer hair, wearing hair back and keeping your hair or bangs off of your face can prevent additional dirt and oil from clogging your pores. Plus, a ponytail can keep you from touching your face and hairline if your hair frequently gets in the way. When it comes to makeup, most makeup on the market is noncomedogenic—so it shouldn’t clog pores even if you wear it while working out. Keep in mind, too, that over-washing your face can lead to irritation, so a pre- and post-workout wash may be too much for your skin. Your best bet may be to go to the gym sans makeup and wait until after your workout to apply it. Get more post-workout beauty tips.
 
Other Dermatological Drawbacks
While it seems odd to point out the negative aspects of exercise, there are a few issues to be aware of when it comes to skin health. These drawbacks don’t outweigh the many benefits of exercise, but knowing the potential for problems will help you avoid them.
 
The biggest drawback, particularly for athletes and gym-goers, is the possibility of contracting a skin condition. Outbreaks of ringworm, herpes, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are highly contagious among both athletes and average exercisers, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Physical contact, shared facilities and equipment, and poor hygiene all contribute to the incidence of MRSA. Athletes and exercisers should also watch out for ringworm and athlete’s foot, two fungal infections that are easily spread by close contact. The AAD advises that after working out or competing, athletes should shower immediately and make sure they wear flip-flops not only in the shower, but also when walking around in the locker room. This advice holds true for casual exercisers using communal locker rooms and showers at health clubs, too.
 
In addition to these conditions, working out can negatively affect those with chronic skin conditions as well. For people who have rosacea—a skin condition characterized by flare-ups of flushing and persistent redness, bumps and pimples—any activity that causes flushing or overheating of the face can spark a rosacea flare-up, according to the National Rosacea Society. Managing your workout can reduce the incidence of flare-ups, and the NRS recommends working out during the cooler parts of the day, working out in more frequent but shorter intervals and drinking cold fluids. Lower-intensity exercises and water exercise may also help.
 
The positive effects of exercise far outweigh the negatives, so check out these tips to keep your skin at its best when fitness is part of your lifestyle.
 
7 Skincare Tips for Exercisers

  1. Protect your skin from sun exposure. Wear sunglasses, a hat and other protective clothing when exercising outdoors. Sunscreen is the unbreakable rule. If you’re going to be working out in the great outdoors, wear protective clothing and apply sunscreen liberally to sun-exposed skin, even when it’s cloudy. The AAD recommends reapplying every two hours and after swimming and sweating, so if you’re working up a sweat, be generous with the sun block. For exercisers, look for “sport” sunscreens that are designed to stay put even when you sweat.
  1. Cleanse gently. To prevent acne flare-ups and scars, gently clean your skin with a mild cleanser twice a day (morning and night) and after heavy exercise.
  1. Avoid tight clothing. Tight clothing that rubs sensitive and acne-prone areas can irritate and aggravate preexisting conditions. Wear lightweight, breathable and unrestrictive clothing and change out of it soon after a tough workout.
  1. Wear flip-flops. Don’t walk barefoot through the gym or locker room. Wearing flip-flops to shower can protect your skin from fungal infections.
  1. Wash your hands. To avoid spreading germs, wipe equipment down before and after use and wash your hands after you work out.
  1. Avoid touching your face. Touching your skin increases the risk of clogging your pores with bacteria and oils, especially if your hands are already picking up bacteria and germs from touching workout equipment.
  1. Hydrate. Drink plenty of H20 to replace water lost during workouts. Proper hydration will keep your entire body functioning properly.
 
Even though some experts aren’t sure whether exercise helps specific conditions like acne, most do agree that working up a sweat will benefit the skin as a whole. So what are you waiting for? Go get that healthy glow the best way possible—by getting your sweat on!

Ditch the Dimples

Zap fat with cardio, and chances are, you’ll lessen the look of cellulite. Add this magical move (which builds lean muscle to in your butt and thighs) to your workouts and your lower body will be ready for its bikini reveal!

The Lunge:

To maximize the lunge’s dimple-diminishing capabilities, watch your form: Never let your knees creep past your toes, and be sure to press the heel of your front foot into the floor and squeeze your glutes throughout. Do three sets of 12 to 20 reps of lunges on each leg, three or four times a week. In as little as one month, you’ll see improvement!

10 Surprisingly Healthy Packaged Foods

You’ve probably heard this advice before: For a healthy grocery trip, shop the perimeter of the store. Avoiding the middle aisles is a good tactic to help you make great choices and pick the most nutritious foods, but if you stick to this advice completely you’ll be missing out on some of the nutritious items that do come in packages. These packaged foods—not to be confused with “processed” foods—can give you some great nutrients and make meal planning easier, saving you precious time.

You can feel good about buying some boxed, canned and jarred items when you’re equipped with the right information. Understanding what you’re looking for is the first step to healthy choices within the supermarket aisles.

Here’s a list of the healthiest convenience foods you can buy from the center of the grocery store.

Canned Beans
Though dried beans are cheaper than canned, they can take a lot of time to cook. Canned beans pack an impressive amount of fiber and protein and can be a quick addition to many meals. Pinto, kidney, cannellini (white kidney), black, Great Northern—name any bean, they’re all great sources of nutrition for your body. When you’re choosing your beans, look for ones without added salt or seasoning. Before using your beans, drain and rinse them in a colander when you’re ready to cook. This will help wash added sodium down the drain—40% of the sodium to be exact.

Oats and Flaxseed
Prepare to have a heart-healthy breakfast by combining old-fashioned oats and ground flaxseed, both found packaged in either cartons or bags. One cup of cooked oatmeal with 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed will give you 8 grams of much needed fiber, as well as a dose of omega-3 fatty acids, which each protect the heart. Choose old-fashioned oats over quick oats or instant oatmeal to ensure you’re getting the maximum amount of fiber without added salt and sugar.

Frozen Vegetables
These can be nearly as nutritious as fresh and are conveniently prewashed and chopped. To ensure you’re getting the maximum amount of vitamins and minerals available, use the vegetables within a few weeks as some nutrients may begin to degrade over time. Also, steam or microwave your veggies rather than boiling them to make sure you’re not losing water-soluble vitamins. Grab some edamame for a nutrient-packed snack, heat up some chopped broccoli as a side dish or combine a stir-fry mix with shrimp in a shallow pan and heat with a bit of olive or canola oil.

Frozen Berries
When it comes to meeting your daily fruit requirement, you can’t beat frozen. Many frozen berries do not have added sugar, but some do. Double check that the ingredients list contains berries to make sure you’re not getting extra calories from refined sugars. Then, add them to oatmeal, cereal, yogurt or make a smoothie.

Granola Bars 
This one can be tricky, as not every granola bar is good for you. Shop carefully and read labels to pick out the healthiest option. Be cautious not to fall into an advertising trap! Flip the products over and check out the ingredients. Some of the healthiest bars will be found near the products made for athletes or in the “natural foods” section. Brands that use dates as their main sweetener can give you a good amount of fiber. Some of these higher quality bars do have more calories. Consider splitting one in half for a small snack or share it with a friend.

Soups
Soup that comes in a can or carton can be a healthy choice if you shop carefully. Many are packed with plenty of fat and added sodium, but some brands are lighter in both. A non-condensed, organic soup made with real vegetables is going to be the healthiest option. These are sometimes found in cans near the condensed soups but are also packaged in boxes in a separate section. Watch out for high sodium soups and read labels for serving size. Most people eat a whole can of soup as one serving, only to discover that what they thought was a healthy option actually contained 2.5 to 3 times the calories, fat and sodium!

Cereal
Breakfast cereal can be a toss-up. Either you’re eating an overdose of sugar or you’re getting a good amount of fiber and vitamins. Pick the right cereal, and you’ll be supporting your heart and intestinal health with each bite. Look for at least 5 grams of fiber per serving and keep in mind the amount of added sugar. There isn’t an established limit to an amount of sugar to stay under, but if you aim for about 5 grams or less, you’re usually grabbing a healthy cereal.You can add even more fiber by mixing in some plain bran cereal with your favorite lightly sweetened cereal.

Brown Rice
For a boxed fare that is both versatile and nutrient packed, pick up brown rice on your next grocery trip. This fiber-rich grain is a great side for nearly any meat, bean, and vegetable—or combination of all three! Try it with kidney beans, diced tomatoes and cilantro, or top it with shrimp, streamed carrots and broccoli with your favorite low-sodium sauce. Learn more about the benefits of whole grains and how to cook them.

Tuna Fish Packed in Water
When it comes to getting a bang for your buck out of canned food, this is almost as good as it gets. This convenient food is high in omega-3 fatty acids and protein, and also gives you a good amount of vitamins D and B-12, too. Top a bed of greens with tuna, veggies, fruit and nuts or scoop it onto whole wheat pita, crackers or bread for a healthy combo on-the-go.

Yogurt 
This tangy concoction found in the dairy aisle can be a great snack or breakfast staple. There are so many options you could go cross-eyed looking at the cooler full of colorful packages! Many brands are advertising “natural” products that do not have artificial colors or sweeteners, but what you choose should depend on your own preferences and nutritional goals. Make sure you check the label for calories to ensure you meet your daily goal.

Perform your best : )

To perform your best, repeat a phrase like “Let’s go” in your head. These confidence-building cues help people improve workout performance, research suggests.