Tips for Working Out with Psoriasis


Staying active is important to staying healthy — especially if you're one of the 7.5 million Americans with psoriasis. Research shows that psoriasis puts you at greater risk for heart attack, stroke, weight gain, and depression than people without the autoimmune condition. Exercise can go a long way in helping stave off these unwanted problems, but whether because of physical limitations or self-consciousness, many people with psoriasis find it difficult to get into any kind of workout routine. These tips and tricks can help you stay comfortable, confident, and in control.

Stay Hydrated

In an hour of exercise, the body can lose more than a quart of water. “It’s important to stay hydrated throughout your workout,” Warner says. Make sure to include water in your psoriasis nutrition plan. Have a drink of water before you begin your routine, and keep a bottle with you as you exercise, pausing to take a sip every 15 minutes or so. When you’re done with your workout, have another drink of water. People with psoriasis have dry skin, and drinking water can help combat that issue as well.

Recruit a Buddy

You’re more likely to stick with your fitness routine if you have a fitness companion. Find a friend, family member, or colleague who would like to go for walks with you early in the morning or play a round of golf with you on the weekend. “Together you can stay focused and inspired while on the road to adopting a healthier lifestyle,” Warner says.

Make Adjustments

Don’t fret if, one morning, you wake up to find the psoriasis lesions on your feet flaring up and can’t do any weight-bearing exercise. Rather than walk, bike, or run, spend your time doing yoga or tai chi or working on your arms with weights. When your psoriasis treatment kicks in and your flares subside, you can go back to your regular routine.

Run in the Sun

Sunlight can improve psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis, says Bruce Bebo, PhD, director of research for the National Psoriasis Foundation. However, even slight sunburn can aggravate psoriasis and cause your skin to flare. Overexposure to the sun can also put you at risk for developing skin cancer. If you like to exercise outdoors, strike a balance: Use sunscreen before you go and choose non- irritating cotton clothes that absorb or reflect the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.

Get Your Heart Pumping

Most adults, with or without psoriasis, need at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least five times a week to stay healthy, Warner says. Cardiovascular exercises — the kind that get your heart pumping — are a great foundation for your psoriasis fitness routine. Regular exercise, combined with a balanced, low-fat diet, will help you maintain a healthy weight, which could keep your flare-ups to a minimum.

Listen to Your Body

If you find that the activity you have chosen causes you pain or discomfort, stop. It’s not wise to ignore pain, which could lead to serious injury. If your pain from exercise doesn’t subside, see your psoriasis doctor as soon as possible to modify your psoriasis treatment plan. It’s okay to push yourself a little, Warner notes, but not to the extreme where you could do some serious harm.

Go for a Swim

Swimming is one of the best exercises for people with painful conditions like psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Whether you swim or walk in water, you’ll build muscle strength and improve your flexibility. Swimming in salt water is especially good because the salt can help your dead skin slough off. The chlorine in a swimming pool, however, can irritate skin affected by psoriasis, so be sure to shower and moisturize as soon as you get out of the water.

Set Up a Home Gym

If you’re reluctant to wear shorts or tops that expose your arms and legs because they're covered with severe psoriasis lesions, Warner suggests following a fitness routine in the privacy of your own home. Start with some basic, inexpensive equipment such as resistance bands and a yoga mat. Find a workout DVD that you like, and set aside time to exercise every day.

Keep Track of Your Progress

Keep a fitness log with everything you eat and all the exercises you do each day. Use this dual food diary and workout journal to chart your progress. Once you see that you’re losing weight and toning your muscles, you’ll be encouraged to continue. “There’s a growing amount of evidence that being overweight is not good for anyone, but especially not for people with chronic conditions, including psoriasis,” Bebo says. Exercise combats obesity, and that can improve not only your psoriasis but also your overall health.

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