Exercise and Psoriasis

From the WebMD Archives

Pain may make you feel like sitting still, but when you move it can help how your skin looks and feels. Hard to believe?

Why Work Out

Exercise is good for your immune system, and it helps fight inflammation in your body. Experts think inflammation may make psoriasis worse.

Bonus: Being active helps fight stress, which can also cause your symptoms to flare. Working out can help you control your weight, too, which may help keep your psoriasis in check.

You Can Overcome Pain

Two common reasons people say they don’t exercise are because of the:

  1. Physical pain of psoriasis
  2. Emotional hurt that can come from the looks you may get from other people when you have lots of psoriasis patches

Tim Yuen, a computer professional in San Ramon Valley, CA, says when he had a bad flare, it made him give up exercise. He’s had the condition for 17 years.

“When my psoriasis completely covered my legs and arms, I stopped playing basketball and avoided the swimming pool for fear of being seen,” he says.

But 3 years ago he took up running despite his often-painful psoriasis rashes. He credits his wife, an avid athlete, with encouraging him to get moving. And it helped.

“I was hooked! The running, combined with a gradual but sustainable diet change, enabled me to lose 45 pounds,” Yuen says. He ran his first half-marathon in 2013, his first marathon in early 2015, and even a hilly, 12-mile obstacle course race called Tough Mudder.

“Setting personal ‘stretch goals’ -- my first 5K, 10K, half, and full marathon -- enabled me to stay active and healthy,” he says. “I realized that the healthier I was, the clearer my skin was and the better my joints felt.”

How to Get Started

The important part is to get going, experts say.

“Start small. You don’t have to run a marathon! Go for walks if you can, maybe 30 to 45 minutes each. Exercise is helpful for your health even if you don’t lose weight,” says Colby Evans, MD, a dermatologist in Austin, TX. He’s also the chairman-elect of the board of trustees of the National Psoriasis Foundation.


How Can I Deal With Pain?

Consider asking your doctor to refer you to a physical therapist. They can help you create a personal exercise plan that helps you get in shape even if you have psoriasis pain, says Ann Wendel, a physical therapist in Alexandria, VA.

“If you have flares, you may need to come in and work one on one with a therapist to get you up and get you moving again,” she says.

You can work past pain or the fear of learning to work out.

“When we have pain, we want to curl up on the couch and do nothing,” Wendel says. “Movement makes you feel better. The main hurdle is getting into your exercise clothes and getting started. Once I get people to exercise for 10 minutes, they usually keep going!”

She also suggests you wear loose-fitting clothes that don’t rub against your skin and comfy shoes if you have any foot pain.

What if I’m Worried About How My Skin Looks?

If you don’t like to show your skin, you may feel more comfortable exercising at a physical therapy clinic or a wellness program where everyone is dealing with a health condition, Wendel says.

Which Exercises Are Good?

These activities can help you manage your weight and may help control your psoriasis:

  • Walk, ride a stationary bike, or swim to make your heart stronger and to burn calories. If walking is painful because of cracking skin, you may want to try swimming or water aerobics, Evans says.
  • Weight training builds muscle and boosts your metabolism. Resistance exercise-bands are easy to use at home. You can also lift free weights, use weight machines, or do pushups and squats.
WebMD Feature Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on 3/, 015



National Psoriasis Foundation.

Colby Evans, MD, Evans Dermatology, Austin, TX.

Ann Wendel, PT, ATC, CMTPT, Prana Physical Therapy, Alexandria, VA.

Tim Yuen, patient, San Ramon Valley, CA.

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