Resistance Exercises May Be Your Skin’s New Best Friend

August 20, 2023
2 mins read
Lifting Weights To Have Better Skin
© Photo: Drazen Zigic

What if the secret to radiant skin wasn’t in a fancy cream or a cutting-edge serum, but rather nestled within the everyday humdrum of your local gym? New research suggests that your next workout might just be your most effective skincare routine yet, with resistance exercises playing an exceptional role in rejuvenating the skin.

Your Skin on Exercise

Scientific Reports recently published a study that explored how aerobic and resistance exercises impact the health of facial skin cells and tissues. Both types of workouts exhibited noteworthy results, yet resistance training including lifting weights boasted superior benefits.

The results consolidate the fact that regular exercise is essential for skin health. Renowned professor and director of the Neuromuscular and Neurometabolic Clinic at McMaster University, Mark Tarnopolsky, who has long studied the nexus between physical activity and skin health, was not part of this research, but reaffirms its core message: “Exercise, of any type, is beneficial to skin health.”

Ritsumeikan University’s exercise scientist Satoshi Fujita, the driving force behind the study, observed that post-exercise, people’s skin exhibited a more “youthful cellular level“. The effect was particularly striking in those who engaged in weightlifting.


Dispelling Misconceptions

The idea of exercise benefiting skin might seem counterintuitive. One might even worry that high-impact exercises could stretch and negatively alter the skin’s structure. Fujita’s work, however, suggests otherwise.

His study builds on the foundation laid by a 2015 study led by Tarnopolsky. The latter analyzed skin from a group of both active and sedentary individuals, using skin from the buttocks to eliminate the influence of sun damage. Tarnopolsky found that active people’s skin had a thinner stratum corneum (outer skin layer), a thicker dermis (deeper skin layer), and cells packed with healthier mitochondria – all indications of younger skin.

Lifting Weights To Have Better Skin

Weighing the Impact of Weightlifting

Fujita’s curiosity, however, lay in the effect of resistance exercises on skin health, a question left unanswered by Tarnopolsky’s research which focused solely on endurance exercise.

Fujita, with his team, recruited 56 sedentary, middle-aged women for the study. After assessing the elasticity, thickness, and structure of the participants’ facial skin, the women were split into two groups. One group cycled for 30 minutes, twice a week, while the other embarked on a weightlifting regimen for the same duration.

A Breakthrough for Skin Health

Sixteen weeks later, the women’s increased fitness and strength levels were clear indicators of the effectiveness of the workouts. Fascinatingly, improvements were also visible in their facial skin elasticity, density of the extracellular matrix (a key component providing structure to skin tissue), and the activity of collagen-creating genes.

One unique effect was exclusive to weightlifting – an increase in the thickness of the dermal layer. Fujita suggests this could be attributed to increased gene activity producing proteins that fortify connective tissue.

Interestingly, this study did not evaluate any aesthetic changes in the women’s skin. Still, Fujita theorizes that these cellular transformations “may reduce wrinkles, improve appearance and help people look younger.

Looking Forward

Despite promising results, the study’s limitations should be noted. The participants were homogenous – middle-aged, sedentary Japanese women – and there was no control group. David Sawcer, a clinical associate professor of dermatology at the Keck School of Medicine, advises caution in interpretation. The findings “seem reasonable,” but, he adds, “I don’t think they mean anything definitive.”

For a fuller understanding, larger and more diverse studies are imperative. Nonetheless, Fujita is optimistic that his work will inspire more people to develop regular exercise habits, albeit with a reminder to protect their skin during outdoor workouts.

So, are you ready to swap your skin serums for dumbbells? With consistent resistance training, you might just be on your way to looking as youthful as Fujita himself, who at 53, is regularly complimented on his smooth skin thanks to a dedicated regimen of strength and aerobic training. Your skin might be begging you to hit the gym – are you ready to listen?

Click on this link to read this article in French version

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