While some girlies may be afraid to sweat at all because of their acne, others have been told that sweating it all out in high intensity workouts is the way to go. I’m here to peel back the confusion surrounding the best workouts for acne and tell you exactly how to structure your workout routine for clear skin.
Minimize High Intensity Workouts
This is important. SO many people mistakenly think that when it comes to workouts, the higher the intensity, the better. If there’s one thing you take away from this, it’s that you need to minimize high intensity workouts for clear skin. Why? Let me explain.
Cortisol Connection to Acne
While exercise is an excellent stress reliever, overdoing it can put too much stress on the body. High intensity workouts like HIIT or spin can cause elevated cortisol levels, especially when done frequently. This is important to note for people with acne because excess cortisol stimulates sebum production in the pores and can trigger an inflammation response (and can contribute to imbalances with hormones like testosterone which play a role in skin health).
Doing high intensity workouts frequently can lead to persistently elevated cortisol levels. This means your skin could be in a constant state of overproduction of oil, putting you at a high risk for breakouts if you are acne-prone. High intensity workouts can still be useful for overall health, but if you’re struggling with acne it’s best to avoid doing them daily.
Instead, try doing a HIIT style workout just once per week. Also, be sure to recover well from that exercise stress by eating a meal with carbs and protein soon after, drinking lots of water and resting. A great time to do these workouts is during your ovulation phase, where energy levels are naturally higher!
Best Workouts for Acne
In case you thought high intensity was the only way, let me remind you of all the amazing workouts that promote clear skin. These workouts are lower intensity so they don’t spike your cortisol as much as high intensity workouts. These are some of the best workouts for acne-prone individuals:
1. Gentle cardio 1-3x per week (jogging is best)
Cardio training is a great way to get in a good sweat and can also be a great way to get you outside! Try gentle jogging (avoid interval sprints) outdoors for 30-45 mins. Cardio exercise is best for the follicular phase (the week before ovulation).
2. Lift weights 1-3x per week
Using weights in your movement practice is incredible for countless aspects of health so incorporating it into your workout routine helps much more than just your skin. I love incorporating this into my routine 2x per week, especially during my follicular and early luteal phase.
This is gentle enough to be done everyday if you like. Pilates is great for working more intrinsic muscle groups and is an easy type of exercise to help you get a sweat on anywhere! Both mat pilates and reformer pilates are amazing options for people who struggle with stress-related acne. I love pilates during my luteal phase.
Yoga can also be done every day. Not only is it great for your body, but yoga of the mind is an excellent way of keeping your cortisol levels low. I love doing a hot yoga class a couple times per month as well to really sweat it out.
All of the above workouts will give you all the skin-clearing benefits of exercise like increased blood flow and stress reduction without the high cortisol levels. That’s a win for your skin.
I love incorporating yoga during my late luteal phase.
Best workouts for acne: Incorporate active lifestyle exercise
Let’s face it, sometimes it’s a struggle to get a workout in as often as you’d like. Incorporating these active lifestyle ‘exercises’ can help get in some stress relieving movement and even a good sweat!
- Choose walking over driving (when possible) – get your hot girl walk in!
- Choose a standing desk over a sitting desk
- Go skiing! This is great for winter months when motivation to workout and go outside is low
- Swimming (ideally in the ocean or non-chlorinated salt water pool)
- Hiking (research shows being in nature is great for your microbiome health)
Now that you have your ultimate workout guide for clear skin, it’s time to put these things into practice! I recommend scheduling in your workouts in advance so they actually happen. You can even do this for active lifestyle exercise like walking. Schedule in a walk during your lunch break, for example. You’ll feel great and will be on your way to clear skin while doing it.
Don’t forget to fuel up after your workout! Here’s an example of my favourite post-workout acne friendly breakfast: