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This Type Of Exercise Is A+ For Skin Aging, Research Finds

Jamie Schneider
Author:
August 21, 2023
Jamie Schneider
Former Senior Beauty & Lifestyle Editor
By Jamie Schneider
Former Senior Beauty & Lifestyle Editor
Jamie Schneider is the former Senior Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
woman drinking from plastic water bottle after working out
Image by Studio Firma / Stocksy
August 21, 2023
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Exercise is skin care. Movement improves circulation, which helps necessary nutrients, oxygen, and minerals flow throughout your whole body—skin included1! As a result, you may notice a healthy flush many folks describe as a "post-workout glow." Not to mention, exercise improves mental health, and your emotional well-being and complexion are very much connected via the gut-brain-skin axis2. (So I'd say therapy is skin care, too.) 

No matter how you decide to move, working out is good for your skin. However, researchers say one type of exercise is specifically helpful for healthy skin aging. Any guesses? 

Is this the best exercise for skin aging? 

When it comes to that aforementioned "post-workout glow," aerobic exercise tends to receive all the hype. After all, cardio gets your heart pumping, which encourages circulation. That's why researchers wanted to compare aerobic exercise to resistance training, the latter of which hasn't been studied as deeply. 

So in a study published in Scientific Reports3, scientists split up 56 healthy but inactive middle-aged Japanese women into two groups: one group completed aerobic training, and the other participated in resistance training twice a day for 16 weeks. 

The results: Both types of exercise plans improved skin elasticity and upper dermal structure; however, only resistance training was found to increase dermal thickness—and this structural integrity is crucial for supple, firm skin. Researchers specifically found molecules called biglycans in these participants' blood samples, which are linked to skin firmness4. On the flip side, they found a decrease in molecules that inhibit biglycans, like cytokines.

TL;DR? Both cardio and resistance training are top-notch for healthy skin aging, but only resistance training was found to increase the thickness of the inner skin layer. 

A skin-focused strength workout

If you're curious how, exactly, the participants moved, allow us to save you some time combing through the research: 

  • Warm up: 5 reps each on the following weight machines: leg curl, leg extension, arm curl, rowing, shoulder press, and chest press. Each move performed at 50% strength. 
  • Main program: 3 sets of 10 reps on the leg curl, leg extension, arm curl, rowing, shoulder press, and chest press machines, with a 2- to 3-minute rest between sets.

Researchers note that the weight loads increased throughout the study, with 50% strength during sessions 1 and 2, 60% strength for sessions 3 to 6, 70% for sessions 7 to 10, and 75 to 80% for sessions 11 to 32. After that, the loads increased in 5% increments each session. 

Increasing the load is important, as your workouts should progress over time. "We should see that number progressively increasing," dietitian and fitness coach Holly Baxter recently shared on the mindbodygreen podcast. Otherwise, you might not see the results you want (lean muscle mass or supple, firm skin). 

Whether you follow the science-backed workout above or try these trainer-approved exercises, just make sure you're keeping track of your progress and accelerating your goal. 

The takeaway 

For what it's worth, any workout you choose will benefit your skin; as long as you get up and move, your complexion will thank you. But if you're curious about increasing dermal thickness specifically, resistance training may be the way to go. It makes sense if you think about it: Strength training tightens and tones your muscles—why shouldn't it do the same for your skin? 

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