Mya Care Blogger 18 Sep 2023

We all know that exercise is good for health, but did you know that it can also make your skin look younger? 

A recent study published in Nature has shown that resistance training, or lifting weights, can reduce skin aging by enhancing the structure and function of the dermis, the layer of skin that provides it with strength and elasticity.

What Is Resistance Training and How Does It Affect Skin Aging?

Exercise that involves tightening your muscles against external resistance is called resistance training (aka when lifting a weight), such as dumbbells, barbells, or your own body weight. It can improve your muscle mass and make you stronger, as well as reduce the risk of developing chronic illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis.

It is interesting to note that resistance exercise can also benefit your skin. According to the study, resistance training can rejuvenate aging skin by lowering inflammatory factors that circulate the skin and by enhancing the skin’s structure and function.

Inflammation is known to cause damage to skin cells. Over a lifetime, the damage accumulates and starts to detract from the skin’s repair mechanisms. This can cause the skin’s structure to become weaker and lead to a flawed complexion with wrinkles and spots. Weightlifting may be a great way to combat these changes and could save you the hassle of opting for cosmetic procedures or age-reversal beauty treatments later in life.

The Study Layout

The researchers conducted a 16-week intervention in 56 healthy, sedentary middle-aged Japanese women. They divided the women into three groups: one group did aerobic training, such as running or cycling; another group did resistance training, such as squats or bench presses; and the third group did no exercise (the control group).

The researchers measured various indicators of skin aging before and after the intervention. These included the elasticity, thickness, and structure of the middle layer of skin or dermis that gives it shape and vitality. Alongside these factors, they recorded the gene expression of dermal fibroblasts, the cells that produce collagen and other structural components. Additionally, they measured the circulating levels of cytokines (inflammatory molecules), hormones, and metabolites in the blood of the participants.

Main Findings: Weightlifting vs. Aerobic Exercise for Improving Aged Skin

The findings of the study show differences between aerobic training and resistance training that suggest weightlifting may be better for aging skin. Here’s what the researchers found:

Genetic Skin Structure Enhancement

The study found that both aerobic and resistance training significantly improved skin elasticity and upper dermal structure compared to the control group.

While results were good for both, resistance training may be superior for enhancing the overall structure of the skin. Unlike aerobics, resistance training improves dermal thickness, which is an important factor in preventing wrinkles and sagging. Moreover, resistance training increased the expression of genes related to the production of structural components in dermal fibroblasts, suggesting that it contributed to better quality skin structure, tone, and shape.

Lower Inflammation and Better Regeneration

The study also found that aerobics and resistance training had different effects on the tested circulating factors:

  • Aerobic exercise reduced the levels of inflammatory cytokines, such as IL-6 and TNF-alpha, which are known to accelerate skin aging.
  • Resistance Training increased the levels of hormones, such as growth hormone and testosterone, which are known to stimulate collagen synthesis and skin regeneration. It also increased the levels of metabolites, such as lactate and ketone bodies, which are known to activate cellular signaling pathways that promote skin health.

Biglycan and Anti-aging Benefits

Interestingly, resistance training increased the level of a molecule called biglycan (BGN), which is a component of the dermal extracellular matrix. BGN has been shown to have anti-aging effects on various tissues, such as bone, cartilage, and muscle. The researchers speculated that BGN might be a key mediator between resistance training and skin rejuvenation.

Implications and Limitations

This study is the first to show that resistance training can rejuvenate aging skin by reducing circulating inflammatory factors and enhancing dermal structure. It identifies some potential mechanisms and factors involved in the process, such as genes and biglycan production. The findings suggest that resistance training could be an effective anti-aging strategy for skin health.

It should be noted that the study only tested Japanese women, only took measurements from the inner forearm, and only lasted 16 weeks. More research is required to confirm whether the benefits apply to people of all ages and backgrounds, how resistance training affects other areas of skin, and whether the benefits are long-lasting.

How Can You Start Resistance Training for Your Skin?

If you are interested in trying resistance training for your skin health, here are some tips to get you started:

  • Before beginning any new workout regimen, speak with your doctor, especially if you have any health issues or injuries.
  • Start with low-intensity exercises that use your own body weight or light weights, such as push-ups, lunges, or bicep curls.
  • Gradually increase the intensity, frequency, and duration of your exercises as you get stronger and more comfortable.
  • Aim for at least two sessions per week of 30 minutes each.
  • Rest for at least one day between sessions to allow your muscles and skin to recover and adapt.
  • Combine resistance training with aerobic training and a balanced diet for optimal results.

The Takeaway

As per recent studies, resistance training or weight lifting is not only good for your muscles, bones, and metabolism but also for your skin. However, more research needs to be done to establish this correlation. Lifting weights has been shown to reduce inflammation, boost collagen production, and improves skin elasticity.

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