Exercising Your Skin

Happy 2020! It’s a new year, a new decade, and a great time to cultivate habits that improve your health and well-being. If you’re like me, exercise is on your list of resolutions. There is tremendous evidence demonstrating the myriad benefits of physical activity: it’s vital for muscles, bone and cardiovascular system, improves mood and memory, decreases depression, helps with weight loss, increases energy levels and reduces risk of chronic disease.

And here is one more reason to add exercise to your list of resolutions: a healthy body translates into healthy skin.

Research shows that moderate exercise itself can act as an antioxidant[1]. Oxidative stress leads to chronic inflammation and collagen fragmentation, resulting in older looking skin[2].  Antioxidants help protect against these changes.

But did you know that exercising the skin itself might improve appearance? A Northwestern University study by Dr. Murad Alam studied the effects of at-home facial exercises. Women were trained by a certified instructor (www.happyfaceyoga.com) who specializes in resistance exercises for the muscles in the face.

The program, developed by Gary Sikorski of Providence, Rhode Island,  targets the muscles below the skin and fat layers in order to compensate for “age-related volume loss.” Blinded observers found that women who practiced 30 minute face yoga every day or every other day for 20 weeks had significant improvement in upper and lower cheek fullness[3]. The participants were consistently satisfied with their improvement.

This was a small study, limited to middle-aged women, and there was no control group. Nonetheless, it’s intriguing to consider that regular, specific facial exercises might increase muscle size and thus produce facial fullness. Exercising other parts of the body can tone and firm, why not on the face? All it takes is a little self-discipline. Probably easier said than done, but I’m going to give it a try!

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Gomez-Cabrera MC, Domenech E, Vina J “Moderate exercise is an antioxidant: upregulation of antioxidant genes by training.” Free Radic Biol Med 2008; 44 (2): 126-31.

[2] Kruk J, Duchnik E “Oxidative stress and skin diseases: possible role of physical activity.”  Asian Pac J Cancer Prev 2014: 15(2) 561-8.

[3] Alam MA, Walter AJ, Geisler A, Roongpisuthipong, W, Sikorski G, Tung R, Poon E “Association of Facial Exercise with Appearance of Aging.”.  JAMA Dermatol 2018: 154(3): 365-7.