If you need more of an incentive to break a sweat, we’ve got some great news: Working out not only burns fat, it has been scientifically proven to improve your skin. Here are five ways it delivers results.
1. It changes skin at a microscopic level. Curious to find out if exercise alone could change skin quality, researchers at McMaster University in Ontario studied skin biopsies of a group of sedentary volunteers aged 65 or older who had normal skin for their age. Compared to younger people, that meant they had thicker outer layers of skin (making it drier and flakier than younger skin) and thinner inner layers (which is what we can blame for sagging).
The volunteers were then put on an endurance training program twice a week for three months. When their skin was tested, it looked amazingly similar to that of 20 to 40-year-olds. Before you rush to the gym, it’s important to note that comparisons were made under a microscope. Still, Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine at McMaster and who oversaw the study, tells Let’s Twist, “It is likely that skin would look better after three months of training.”
2. Better blood flow. Getting your blood pumping literally gives your skin a boost. “The increase of skin perfusion [the delivery of blood to the capillary beds in the tissue] from sweating alone would likely be perceived as the skin being less ‘sallow’ and more ‘radiant,’” says Dr. Tarnopolsky.
It takes work to sweat—there’s no magic pill to get the remarkable results seen in the McMaster study. While the research discovered an uptick of close to 50% of a specific small protein called IL-15 in the test subjects, Dr. Tarnopolsky says a pill wouldn’t work. If anything, the IL-15 would need to be injected. “The better blood flow is also one of the likely dozens of things that happen with exercise that can’t be replicated with a specific pill or injection.”
3. Tightening properties. Just as exercise is great at improving the quality of your skin, Dr. Tarnopolsky points out that moving (and building muscle while you do it) has another nice bonus. “Most exercisers also get a tightening of the neck and facial muscles, and that also gives a boost to lifting skin naturally.”
4. Line reduction. Given that stress affects your brain and body—and that includes your skin—anything that eases tension will benefit your face as well as the rest of you. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise increases feel-good endorphins, so in addition to frowning less, you’re less likely to give in to nervous habits like touching or scratching your face.
5. Better beauty sleep. Insomniacs may already know what the National Sleep Foundation says, which is that even a single session of exercise helped chronic insomniacs fall asleep faster. Not getting enough sleep leads to inflammation and an increase in the breakdown of collagen and hyaluronic acid, two chemicals that give skin its glow.
So work out hard, sleep well, and you’ll be that much better looking in the morning.