Can Exercise Help Psoriasis?

Regular physical activity and exercise are important parts of a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a healthy body weight. People with psoriasis, a chronic autoimmune condition that causes symptoms on the skin, have a higher chance of being overweight or obese. People with psoriasis who are overweight are also more likely to have more severe psoriasis symptoms. Research suggests that there may be a link between the chronic inflammation that can make certain people more likely to be overweight and the chronic inflammation caused by psoriasis1.

Having psoriasis can also increase a person’s risk of developing other conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. Exercise can help to lower your risk of developing all of those conditions.

Regular exercise will not cure psoriasis, but it can help to improve overall health. Many people with psoriasis find that improving the overall health also helps to reduce their psoriasis symptoms. This is probably because proteins called cytokines that are produced by fat cells are involved in triggering inflammation3.

Exercise can help reduce stress and chronic inflammation

Studies have shown that for people with psoriasis who are overweight, losing just 5% of their body weight can reduce the severity of their symptoms and can have a very positive impact on overall health and reduce the risk of developing other health conditions2. A program of regular exercise combined with a healthy diet is the safest and most effective way to lose weight and keep it off in the longer term.

Getting regular exercise can also have other benefits. Exercise triggers the production of substances called endorphins in the body which can improve your energy level and reduce anxiety levels2. Physical exercise has an impact on local vascular and systemic inflammation as well4. Living with psoriasis can be stressful and emotionally difficult, and many people find exercise helpful in coping with the condition. Some studies have even suggested that women are less likely to develop psoriasis if they get regular vigorous exercise. By reducing or helping to control levels of inflammation in the body, exercise may help reduce some psoriasis flares.

What are some tips for getting more exercise?

Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider before starting a new exercise routine, to make sure that your activities will be safe and effective, and will not make your symptoms worse. There are two main types of exercise: cardiovascular exercise and strength training. Cardiovascular exercises include activities such as walking, swimming, bicycling, or jogging that increase your heart rate (to a safe degree) for a certain period of time. An ideal exercise routine will also include strength training (for example, by using weights) to increase muscle strength. Stretching exercises can help to improve flexibility. Adding some variety to your workout routine, and doing activities that you enjoy, can make you more likely to stick with your exercise program1.

Generally, people are advised to develop a routine of exercising moderately for at least 30 minutes, a minimum of five times a week. If needed, the 30-minute sessions could be split up into 3 separate 10-minute sessions throughout the day2.

The National Psoriasis Foundation offers some ideas for incorporating more exercise into your daily routine3:

  • While sitting at your desk, take some time every hour to do seated exercises such as ankle rolls, heel and toe raises, and knee lifts
  • Schedule yourself 10-minute breaks during the day to do some moderate exercise, such as a short walk
  • Do stretches or floor exercises while watching TV
  • In parking lots, park farther away than you need to and walk the extra distance
  • When possible use stairs instead of the elevator
Written by: Anna Nicholson | Last reviewed: July 2016.
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