Can and Should Psoriasis Patients Exercise?

Benefits of Exercise

Regular exercise is a key component in promoting a healthy immune system, and protecting your immune system is an important part of managing your psoriasis as it is an auto-immune disorder.

Psoriasis patients are also more likely to be overweight. Overweight people have a higher risk of cardiac conditions, diabetes and high blood pressure, which further complicates the problems a psoriasis patient faces. With regular exercise and a healthy diet, psoriasis patients can control their weight and lower the risk of other medical complications that come with the extra kilos.

Psoriasis treatments also tend to be less effective on overweight patients. By shedding some kilos through regular exercise, treatments will become more effective.

For patients suffering from psoriatic arthritis, regular exercise is crucial. To alleviate pain, sufferers of psoriatic arthritis often keep their joints in a bent position. Ultimately, this leads to having locked joints, resulting in deformity. Exercises that move the joints are therefore very important. Proper exercise will help reduce the pain and stiffness as well as improve a patient’s range of movement.

Patients with psoriasis are often very stressed by the condition but this can be helped by regular exercise. One of the widely promoted benefits of exercise is stress relief. Exercise stimulates the production of endorphins, which are our body’s natural mood elevators. Simultaneously, it helps combat the body’s stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Exercise will help place psoriasis patients in a better position to battle with the mental challenges of living with their disease.

Despite the benefits of exercising, psoriasis patients might put off exercising for fear of aggravating their condition. Perspiration causes flare-ups, hence psoriasis patients tend to avoid exercising. The pain that psoriatic arthritis patients experience in their joints might also deter them from engaging in exercises.

So here are some psoriasis-friendly exercise tips.

  • Dress for comfort: Find the most comfortable clothing before embarking on your exercise regime. Patients should avoid synthetic fabrics that cause skin irritation or rub uncomfortably against inflamed skin. Fabrics like cotton are highly absorbent and help to soak up perspiration and reduce the risk of skin irritation.vii
  • Prevention is better than cure: For areas likely to be irritated – such as joints - it is advisable to apply some lubricants like petroleum jelly prior to exercising. This reduces the risk of agitating the skin and causing a flare up. Do take care to avoid sports which have higher risks of sustaining injuries.viii
  • Reconcile with the environment: Adapting to the environment you work out in reduces the risk of aggravating your psoriasis. In Singapore where the weather is hot and sunny, apply sunblock generously to prevent sunburn.ix If you travel overseas where the climate is dryer, remember to keep your body well-moisturized and hydrated.
  • Keeping it clean: Cleaning up after exercising is especially important for psoriasis sufferers. Not only will it help to remove potential irritants that could trigger your psoriasis, it also helps to cool your body down after a round of workout. A shower after exercising removes the dirt and grime, and powder helps the skin feel more comfortable. x

Exercise for psoriasis patients

Aerobic exercises improve your cardiovascular system. For psoriasis patients, low-impact aerobic exercises like cycling and walking are recommended. Water exercises like water aerobics or swimming have minimal impact on the joints and are ideal for patients suffering from psoriatic arthritis.xi

Strength and flexibility exercises are also helpful for psoriasis patients. Strengthening of muscles can help ease the stress on the joints. The stronger the muscles, the more stable the joints are.xii According to doctors, free weights and resistance bands are ideal to build strength.xiii Instead of using heavy weights, light weights with more repetition would be better for psoriasis patients. Range of motion exercises like yoga can also help ensure that the joints remain flexible especially for patients with psoriatic arthritis.

Before trying out different exercises, it is always good to seek your doctor’s opinion. No matter what exercise you choose, pay attention to your body’s signals.xiv If you feel any pain or discomfort, do consult your doctor immediately.