by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN
Eczema is a skin condition that can be incredibly embarrassing. You may feel self-conscious about the condition, especially if there are open skin sores and blemishes. This can make it difficult to exercise in public. But exercise has numerous health benefits, including stress relief and weight loss.
So, how can you exercise when you suffer from eczema? First, let’s learn about the condition and then look at some exercise tips when you have eczema.
What is Eczema?
Eczema, also known as dermatitis, is a chronic condition that causes the skin to become itchy, red, dry, and cracked. It can affect any body part, including your face, arms, and legs.
It’s common in babies and young children, but it can also affect adults. Eczema usually appears as patches of dry, red skin that may be covered with small blisters or scales. These patches can come and go depending on what triggers your eczema flare-up.
The main treatment for eczema is avoiding triggers (such as soaps and fragrances) that worsen your symptoms. But you can also try certain medications, such as topical steroids, to help control your symptoms until you find an effective treatment plan that works for you.
8 Tips to Follow When Exercising with Eczema
You know that exercise is good for your overall health, but sometimes that pesky eczema acts up and puts a big old monkey wrench in your workout plans.
Here are some ways to exercise with eczema so you can get those endorphins flowing and keep your skin happy and healthy.
1. Stay hydrated
Drink plenty of water before, during, and after you exercise. It’s important to stay hydrated because it helps your body sweat efficiently and cools down properly during exercise.
2. Wear clothing that wicks away sweat
Choose fabrics that wick away sweat from your skin to keep yourself dry and comfortable during exercise. Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing or anything made of wool or synthetic fibers that retain moisture close to the skin. Cotton is a good fabric choice because it absorbs sweat well without trapping it against your skin like synthetic fabrics do.
3. Use a moisturizer before you exercise
Moisturize before heading outside, especially if you know your workout will be intense or last longer than 15 minutes. Apply the moisturizer immediately after getting out of the shower so it has time to absorb into your skin before sweating starts again. You might also consider using an oil-based moisturizer instead of lotion so that it won’t evaporate as quickly once applied to damp skin (this is particularly helpful if you tend to sweat a lot).
4. Wear loose clothing that covers most of your body when you work out
This includes long sleeves and pants and perhaps even a hat or headband if you have long hair that tends to get sweaty in your workout clothes. The less exposed skin, the less chance there is for irritation from histamine release.
5. Avoid hot water
Hot water causes the skin to become inflamed by stripping away the protective oils in your skin barrier. So, take showers instead of baths, and even though it doesn’t sound sanitary, avoid washing your hands more than once per day with hot water (or even better — use cold water). Also, ensure that you towel dry gently to avoid rubbing off any remaining oils before they’ve had time to replenish.
6. Know what triggers your symptoms so you can avoid them when possible
People with eczema have different triggers. For example, overheating can cause symptoms to worsen in some cases. In others, sweating may trigger a flare-up right before or after working out. To help prevent this, try wearing layers instead of one bulky jacket when exercising outdoors during warm weather. If you know what sets off your flare-ups and how they manifest themselves on your body (itching, redness, etc.), then you’ll be better prepared to avoid these situations if possible.
7. “Spritz” regularly
If you’re going to be exercising outdoors or in a warm environment, it’s important to keep yourself cool throughout the activity. Use a spray bottle filled with water and spritz yourself every few minutes during your workout. You can even use an inexpensive fan if air conditioning isn’t available.
8. Use a sunscreen with at least SPF 30
Sunscreen is essential any time of year, but it’s especially critical if you’re exercising outdoors. Sun exposure can trigger flare-ups in people with eczema, so be sure to use a sunscreen that provides broad-spectrum protection (blocks both UVA and UVB rays). If you’re going to be outside for more than 10 minutes, apply the sunscreen liberally and reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating heavily (even if you’re just going out for a walk).