The Fountain of Youth


In the pink! That rush of adrenaline after a long run, spin, or yoga session is usually followed by a gorgeous, pink-cheeked flush. It’s the first thing you notice — that pink, healthy glow. But, it’s not the only benefit that exercise has for your skin. Aside from the obvious perks of better moods, weight loss, and toned muscles, recent studies indicate a direct link between your skin’s ability to stay young-looking and your exercise schedule. Win/win, right? So, what are some of the benefits?

First off, sweat is antibacterial. Always controversial but sometimes beneficial, sweat is a necessary evil (or blessing, depending on how you look at it). Sweating while you workout can be a sort of DIY steam bath: it opens pores and dislodges whatever was stuck there, but the key is to wash soon after exercise to avoid drying the sweat and re-clogging your pores. Here’s the truly amazing part: recent studies have shown that perspiration contains a natural antibiotic known as Dermcidin, which kills E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus. Pure magic!

Another benefit is that it increases blood flow to flush cellular debris. Exercising increases your blood flow and re-oxygenates your blood. That blood goes to your heart, limbs, and elsewhere inside your body, but that also means it increases blood flow in your skin. Expert dermatologist Dr. Ellen Marmur explains that “by increasing blood flow, a bout of exercise helps flush cellular debris out of the system.” So, in effect, you’re cleansing your skin from the inside.

Exercise also keeps your fascia in top working order. Fascia is a web of tissue that holds your muscles, blood vessels, and nerves together. Your fascia needs to be kept springy and busy, so you can compare it to learning a language or getting used to a new habit: it’s all about consistent repetition. “Keep the body young by keeping elasticity in your tissue,” says Thomas Myers, an anatomy expert and author of Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists. He explains, “We can train ourselves to be younger.” Essentially, you’re building muscle memory…anti-aging memory!

There are also myokines. Ever hear of myokines? Myokines are substances that enter the bloodstream and jump-start operations in cells. They’re released during exercise and might be the link between much younger skin and exercise. According a study recently covered by the New York Times, even people who started exercising late (and hadn’t exercised their whole lives) saw an immediate difference in the quality of their skin. When samples of skin were placed under a microscope, those who exercised had skin that “looked like that of a much younger person, and all that they had done differently was exercise.” Don’t you wish they could bottle these little gems?

And finally, working out also helps maintain a regular level of cortisol, a stress-related hormone. Dr. Noëlle Sherber, a board-certified dermatologist based in Baltimore, says “Elevated cortisol levels are linked to increased sebum production, which means more acne breakouts.” But if you don’t exercise and experience a spike in cortisol, that’s not the only thing that can happen. “Too much cortisol can also cause the collagen in skin to break down,” says Sherber, “which can increase wrinkles and sagging.” So, which would you rather have? A tighter, leaner body with glowing skin, or a $5000 bill from the plastic surgeon? That’s a big “no-brainer.”