You likely already know that exercising can help relieve stress, boost your mood, strengthen your heart, and improve your overall health and well-being. But when you have atopic dermatitis (AD), all the sweat-inducing, heat-building workouts you do can leave you with red, itchy skin.
However, if you have eczema, there are things you can do to make your workouts more comfortable. By making smart decisions about your workout routine and your clothing, you can have a comfortable workout that doesn’t irritate your skin.
Exercise can lead to triggers that cause atopic dermatitis symptoms to flare up. Because exercise often causes people to sweat and raise body temperature, atopic dermatitis itching may increase as the skin gets dry or cracked.
Skin may also become more sensitive as a result of exercising, which can worsen the symptoms of atopic dermatitis.
Exercising outdoors may expose you to allergens, dry or humid air, or pollution. All of these can trigger atopic dermatitis symptoms. But you shouldn’t avoid exercise altogether if you have atopic dermatitis. It’s important to learn what types of activities — and weather — affect your symptoms and make a plan to prevent exposure so that you can reduce atopic dermatitis flare-ups.
If the goal is to reduce sweating (since sweat that dries on the body can cause irritation), you may want to consider more low impact exercises, such as yoga or pilates.
Many people with atopic dermatitis avoid working out. But finding a regular exercise routine that works for you with minimal atopic dermatitis symptoms is important for your overall health.
Consider strength training, power walking, or hiking outside the peak summer season. Be sure to take regular breaks during any physical activity, wipe excess sweat, and stay hydrated throughout a workout.
Finally, at the end of your workouts, shower and put on clean clothing. If bathing immediately afterward isn’t an option, take care to wipe your skin dry and change out of any damp, sweaty clothing. Moisturizing regularly should also be a part of your post-exercise regimen.
The body sweats to regulate body temperature, so there’s no avoiding it. As sweat evaporates from your skin, your body begins to dehydrate, and your skin is left with a salty residue. The more sweat that evaporates, the drier your skin becomes.
Paying attention to how much you’re sweating and doing your best to minimize this can help prevent any unnecessary dryness. Keep a towel with you as you work out so you can wipe away sweat as it collects.
Heat is another known trigger for AD, and unfortunately, it’s not just summer heat. Your body temperature rises when you do intense exercise. Even in an air-conditioned gym, it’s hard to avoid heat during a good workout.
It’s important to stay ahead of the curve on overheating. Try taking frequent breaks during your workout to allow your body to cool down. Keep a water bottle with you during workouts so that it’s easier to stay hydrated, and take frequent water breaks to help you cool down.
Many new artificial clothing materials that are designed to wick moisture away from the skin. Unfortunately, these synthetic wicking materials aren’t a great option if you have eczema or AD. The texture of the synthetic material can feel rough and irritate your skin.
Most runners and outdoor sports enthusiasts recommend wool socks for similar moisture-wicking capabilities. But, as with synthetics, wool is too harsh for most people who have AD.
Breathable, 100% cotton is best for T-shirts, undergarments, and socks. Cotton is a natural fabric that allows more air to pass through than newer “tech” clothing.
The fit is equally important. Tight clothing will lock in sweat and heat. Keep the fit loose enough that the material doesn’t rub against your skin during your workout.
Even if you’re self-conscious about your AD, resist the urge to overdress. Shorts are better than pants, when possible, especially if you’re prone to flare-ups in the folds of your knees. Keeping more skin exposed will help you stay cooler and give you the opportunity to wipe away sweat as you exercise.
If you have a favorite routine, by all means, stick with it. Try to make slight modifications that keep flare-ups under control.
But if you’re looking to try something different to help your AD, consider one (or more) of these workouts.
Strength training comes in many forms. You can train with weights, use exercise machines, or use your own body weight. Depending on the style of routine you choose, resistance training can help you build muscle, get stronger, and burn fat.
If you have AD, you’ll want to take advantage of the built-in breaks. Almost any strength training program calls for resting at least 60 seconds between sets. In this time, as your body recovers, you can drink some water and dry off any sweat.
You can also start a strength training routine from the comfort of an air-conditioned gym or even your own home. These are great options for summer when you might not want to be training in the heat.
You can even use an efficient form of strength training called circuit training to get in a good cardio workout. It’s a great full-body workout that builds strength while keeping your heart healthy. You can do circuit training at home with little more than a pair of dumbbells. Just remember to take a little extra rest between circuits to cool down.
Taking a daily walk is a great way to stay active with lower impact on your joints and less sweat than when running. You can walk outside when the weather is nice or use a treadmill indoors.
You’re less likely to overheat when walking than other more strenuous forms of exercise. You can carry a bottle of water with you and even a small towel in case you start to sweat.
If you’re walking on a sunny day, wear a hat, sunscreen, or both. Be sure to find a sunscreen or sunblock that’s free of irritating chemicals.
Try to walk for about 30 minutes each day if it’s your primary form of exercise.
Indoor swimming is an excellent full-body workout that keeps your body from overheating. You also don’t have to worry about sweat lingering on your skin when you’re in the pool.
The main concern for swimmers is highly chlorinated public pools. If chlorine irritates your skin, try to shower immediately after swimming. Most gyms and public pools offer access to showers. Getting the chlorine off your skin as soon as possible will help reduce irritation.
You should never have to give up on the health benefits of exercise just because you live with AD. There are many ways to minimize sweat and heat exposure while still getting in a good workout. Pack your gym bag with a small towel and a big bottle of ice water, and try one of these three workout routines soon.