Maintaining an active lifestyle is essential to managing my psoriasis, but it’s not always easy. At the time of my diagnosis, I was 15 years old and involved in a busy schedule of extracurricular activities. I played varsity lacrosse, took jazz and tap-dancing classes, and danced on my high school kickline team. And I didn’t want to quit any of it.
It was a challenge to learn how to coexist with my psoriasis while keeping up all the activities I loved. With determination and lots of support from my parents, I pursued my passions through graduation — and beyond. I played lacrosse in my freshman and sophomore years of college, and I was a founding member of my school’s kickline team. That meant two hours of intense cardio, three days a week, for all four years.
Tired yet? My packed schedule definitely kept me on my toes. I also think it played a big part in helping me keep my psoriasis under control. Many sources, including the National Psoriasis Foundation, note that exercise helps fight inflammation in the body, which is said to worsen psoriasis. In my experience, exercise makes me feel good and diminishes my stress levels. It gives me a way to clear my mind from all the craziness that life throws our way.
Now, with two toddlers at home, I find it even more challenging to squeeze exercise into my day. Often, I get in my cardio by playing and dancing with my girls. But no matter what, I don’t give up on exercise.
If you want to add some physical activity to your routine, it’s simple to get started, and it may help you manage your psoriasis. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you add exercise to your treatment plan:
1. Start slowly
Don’t dive into vigorous exercise if your body isn’t used to it. There are plenty of ways you can get started at a slow, comfortable pace. For example, set aside time to take regular walks around your neighborhood or join a beginner fitness class.
If you try to do too much, too soon, you risk becoming frustrated, sore, or even injured. Instead, aim to build up your fitness level over time.
It’s also a good idea to let your doctor know that you’re changing up your exercise routine. If you’re worried about aggravating your condition or becoming injured, your doctor can suggest ways to get active safely.
2. Focus on the little things
It might feel unusual at first, but there are lots of small ways to incorporate exercise into your daily routine. Even when you don’t have a lot of time, these simple ideas can help you squeeze in extra activity:
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Park in the furthest spot from the store to add some extra walking.
- Do squats while brushing your teeth.
- Do some calisthenics while watching TV.
Even better, try combining exercise with time outside. For example, if you usually eat lunch at your desk, get up and take a walk around the block before you get back to work. Not only will you get extra exercise, but you can enjoy fresh air and get a potential boost of vitamin D from the sun.
3. Find a friend who shares your goals
It’s always nice to spend time with friends, but having a workout buddy is about more than companionship. Exercising with a friend is a great way to keep you motivated to stay on track. You’ll be less likely to skip a walk or run in the park if you’re meeting someone. Plus, exercising with a buddy can be fun! If you can find someone who has a similar fitness level, you can even set goals together.
4. Stay hydrated — seriously
Drinking water when exercising is important for everyone — but it’s especially important if you have psoriasis. Our dry, itchy psoriasis skin needs to be hydrated at all times. You’ll need to drink even more water than usual to make up for the sweat lost during your workout. So don’t forget your water bottle!
5. Wear a psoriasis-friendly wardrobe
When you have psoriasis, your workout clothes can make a big difference to how much you enjoy being active. The combination of tight spandex and sweat may irritate your skin, so plan on wearing loose, breathable clothing. Cotton is a great choice, along with fabrics like modal and rayon. Choose clothing that helps you feel comfortable and confident.
The gym locker room can be a scary place when you have a flare. If you’re not comfortable changing out in the open, there are other options. Most gyms have personal changing rooms available, where you can have a little more privacy. You can also simply wear your workout gear right to the gym.
6. Embrace cold showers
Though you may shiver a little, cold showers can be incredibly helpful if you’re working out with psoriasis. Sweat from your workout can aggravate psoriasis plaques. A cold shower will not only wash away the sweat, but also help cool you down so that you stop sweating. That’s why it’s a good idea to take a cold shower as quickly as possible after a workout.
Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle — and it can be an additional way to help keep your psoriasis flares under control. Staying active when you have a chronic condition has its challenges, but don’t give up. Remember to start slowly, and talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about what level of activity is right for you. With a little patience and persistence, you can make exercise a part of your routine.
Joni Kazantzis is the creator and blogger for justagirlwithspots.com, an award-winning psoriasis blog dedicated to creating awareness, educating about the disease, and sharing personal stories of her 19+ year journey with psoriasis. Her mission is to create a sense of community and to share information that can help her readers cope with the day-to- day challenges of living with psoriasis. She believes that with as much information as possible, people with psoriasis can be empowered to live their best life and make the right treatment choices for their life.