Before you shimmy into those leggings or roll out your mat in a hot yoga class, consider this: The same workouts that keep your weight in check, protect against type 2 diabetes, and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke — all health issues that go hand-in-hand with psoriasis — could make your skin condition worse.
Here are seven exercise habits to avoid if you’re one of the 7.5 million U.S. adults living with psoriasis.
Choosing the wrong workout:When you have psoriasis, not all workouts are created equal.
The high heat and off-the-charts humidity in a hot yoga class could trigger a flare. The chlorine in a swimming pool can cause skin to become dry and itchy. The friction from sitting on a bike seat or holding a ballet barre can irritate the skin, too, says Rosalyn George MD, founder of the Wilmington Dermatology Center.
But that doesn’t mean you get a free pass to just chill.
“Exercise is so important because it reduces stress and inflammation that can make psoriasis worse,” George says. “Before you rule out a specific exercise, find something you like and try it a few times to see if it’s a workout your psoriasis can tolerate.”
Wearing synthetic fabrics: Polyester and psoriasis don’t mix. Synthetic fabrics trap sweat and can make psoriasis worse. Instead, choose moisture-wicking fabrics, says Ross Radusky MD, a dermatologist at Dermatology Treatment and Research Center.
“If you sweat, the psoriasis plaques will feel more uncomfortable,” he says. “It’ll prevent you from working out to the fullest.”
Wearing tight clothing: Your favorite leggings and fitted tanks could rub against lesions and make them worse. Friction from tight clothes could also cause new lesions, George says.
Sweats and oversized T-shirts offer extra space for your skin to breathe but won’t hamper your movement.
Dressing to impress: It can be hard to show up to a running group in sweats and long sleeves when all of the other runners are dressed in athletic shorts and sports bras or tanks. But, when it comes to workout wear, George says comfort is king.
“You might want more full coverage so you’re not shedding skin and feeling uncomfortable, [but] if you don’t care that you have a plaque on your elbow, wear a short-sleeved shirt,” she says. “You should wear whatever makes you comfortable.”
Using dirty equipment: Don’t pick up weights or hop on the treadmill until you wipe them down. One study found 25 different bacteria, including salmonella and staphylococcus, on gym equipment.
Since active psoriasis increases your risk of infection, it’s essential to wipe down fitness equipment before you start your workout.
Skipping sunscreen: Outdoor workouts are great, but sunburn makes psoriasis worse. Make sure you slather on sunscreen before you head out.
Radusky suggests you apply a full ounce of SPF 30 or higher to all exposed skin, including psoriasis plaques, before you head outdoors. Performance fabrics with SPF protection could also help, he says.
Taking a hot shower: A hot shower after a hard workout might feel good, but the higher the temperature of the water, the greater the odds it’ll dry your skin. It could also cause inflammation that ups the itch factor.
“Plaques are already very dry,” Radusky says. “Hot water strips away even more moisture. A moderate shower temperature is better.”
After your not-so-hot shower, he says, apply a light, fragrance-free moisturizer that will lubricate the skin and cut the pain, burning, and itching that comes with psoriasis plaques.