If you’re at high risk for psoriasis (calling all people who are obese, experience high stress levels, smoke, have HIV and/or have a family history of psoriasis), then you probably want to do everything that you possibly can to prevent yourself from getting it—since you’re well aware that the affliction can lead to scaly, silver-white skin patches and red, irritated skin that easily cracks and bleeds.
Scientists have discovered that you may be able to, literally, run away from psoriasis—at least if you run fast enough!
All it requires is doing a certain sort of cardio…
AMP UP YOUR EXERCISE
In a recent study, researchers collected information on subjects’ health and exercise habits. At the beginning of the study, none of the participants had psoriasis. After following the subjects for about 14 years, researchers made an interesting discovery…
The more vigorously the participants exercised, the lower their chances of developing psoriasis.
What do I mean by exercising “vigorously”? Take running, for example—it’s common for a jogger to move at a pace of 11 to 15 minutes per mile. But to reduce your risk for psoriasis as much as possible, this study found that you’d need to move at a brisker pace of at least 10 minutes per mile. You don’t have to be a great athlete to run that fast—but at that speed, you will likely sweat and breathe hard. The beautiful part is that researchers found that if you run at that level of intensity (either outdoors or on a treadmill) for just 15 minutes a day, on average, you can reduce your risk for psoriasis by about 30%.
If running isn’t your thing, the researchers noted that doing any sort of exercise at an intense pace that makes you sweat or breathe hard is likely to help.
These findings don’t prove that exercising vigorously will definitely prevent psoriasis, but they point out an interesting association.
Even when the researchers factored in other possible contributing factors—such as age, weight, smoking and alcohol consumption—vigorous physical activity was still associated with reduced psoriasis risk. One limitation of the study is that investigators did not look into the subjects’ family history of psoriasis.
Why might brisk exercise prevent psoriasis? Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease in which systemic inflammation speeds up the body’s production and turnover of skin cells, senior study author Abrar A. Qureshi, MD, MPH, explained to me. Any type of exercise interrupts this destructive process by reducing inflammation, he said, and it’s possible that vigorous exercise reduces it more than moderate or mild physical activity.
If you already have psoriasis, you might be wondering whether vigorous exercise might reduce your symptoms, but Dr. Qureshi isn’t sure. Future research will need to address that question.
At any rate, if one of your goals is to prevent psoriasis, increase the intensity of your workouts. Of course, if you’re a couch potato, to avoid straining weak muscles, take it slow at first, said Dr. Qureshi. Consult your physician and devise a plan together to gradually work your way up to more active workouts that will help protect you from psoriasis.