Tips for Exercising When You Have Eczema

Medically Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on September 18, 2023
3 min read

Physical activity can make your heart stronger, boost your mood, and -- if you have eczema -- leave your skin red, sensitive, and itchy.

But that’s no reason to skip exercise. It can actually help your eczema because it lowers stress, and stress can trigger flare-ups. So keep moving. Just tweak your routine so it’s kinder to your skin.

When you exercise, your body heats up, and heat can make your eczema worse. You can’t stop that completely, but some things will help.

Take breaks. Split up your workouts. Stop and give your body a chance to cool down. Then start again.

Drink lots of waterAlways have a bottle handy. Some have a mister that allows you to spray your skin, too.

Don’t overdo it. If it’s hot out, stay in an air-conditioned spot indoors. Stick to less strenuous workouts and do it before 11 a.m. or after 5 when it’s cooler.

The salt and acidity in perspiration can dry out your skin and make it sting. You can take steps to minimize it.

Wipe off sweat as you work out.Always keep a towel with you.

But don’t use your shirt! If you do, all that sweat will still be touching your skin.

When you work out indoors, use a fan. It helps sweat evaporate.

Your workout gear needs to be light and breathable so sweat can evaporate off your body, and loose so it lets out heat and doesn’t rub against your skin.

Choose cotton. It’s generally the softest on your skin.Get clothes one size larger, so they’re not tight anywhere. You may even want to wear clothing inside out so the seams don’t rub against the skin. Cut off any tags.

Take care with synthetics. While some sports clothing is designed to wick away sweat, it may also be hot and rough against your skin. Try different types and see what works for you.

Wear layers. Strip them off as you warm up so you don’t overheat.

Always wash your clothes after you wear them. Don’t let them stink and fester in your gym bag and then put them back on.

In general, swimming is good exercise if you have eczema. It keeps your skin cool while you work out. But take some precautions.

Slather on lotion before you swim. It will help act as a barrier to prevent dryness. Follow with a sunscreen if you’re outside.

Test the pool. Before you spend an hour in a new pool, take a quick dip and see how your skin does. Some people have a bad reaction to chlorine and other pool chemicals. Others don’t.

Swim in clean pools.You’re less likely to have a flare-up if the water’s pH levels are neutral.

You want to get sweat, chlorine, and other irritants off your body as soon as possible. Just remember to:

  • Keep showers and baths short, and use lukewarm, not hot, water.
  • Use a gentle, hydrating, fragrance-free cleanser, not soap.
  • Pat your skin dry with a soft towel.
  • Put on the prescription treatment and moisturizing cream you use.

No matter how careful you are, your eczema may flare up sometimes. When it does, take steps to be kind to your skin so you don’t make it worse.

Dial back the intensity of your workouts until your skin calms down. For example, walk instead of run. Once you’ve healed, you can go back to your usual routine.

Not all of these tips will apply to you. If sweat and spandex don’t bother you, great. Stick with strategies that work for you.