Is Exercise Aging You?

The idea that working out could actually make you look older, not younger, probably sounds preposterous. After everything we’ve been told about how exercising keeps us healthy, how it can make us happier and help us live longer lives . . . how could that be? The truth is, exercise is great for you—and whatever negative side effects it may have, they are far outweighed by its benefits. There are two ways in which it could be making you look older than you are, however, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today. But never fear: I may be presenting you with some problems, but I’ve got some solutions for you, too!

The Problem: Exposure to the Elements

Exercising, on its own, is fantastic for you. Exercising outside, however, can take a serious toll, especially on your face. As we’ve discussed before, sun damage is skin public enemy number one: it damages the collagen fibers in your skin, (reducing the elasticity of your skin and causing wrinkles to develop), and its UV rays disperse free radicals throughout your body, which can damage your skin cells. And if you live and exercise somewhere that gets windy or cold (or both), you’re in even more trouble—both environments dry your skin, which can also age you. Athletes who frequently engage in outdoor activities are exposing themselves to these elements on a regular basis . . . and over time, their skin begins to suffer for it.

The Solution

No matter what it looks like outside—whether it’s 80 degrees and sunny, overcast, or snowing—wear sunscreen. UV rays penetrate even the thickest of cloud covers, which means any time you’re outside, you’re absorbing them. Keep your skin young by protecting it with SPF. As for the dryness caused by wind and cold: wash your face and moisturize it immediately after exercising. It’s not a perfect solution, but it will help to counteract the chapping they can cause.

The Problem: Loss of Volume

We live in a culture obsessed with weight loss, so this is yet another potentially difficult to understand idea—but when you get to a certain age, being skinny can actually make you look older than you are.  Up to a certain point in our lives, excess weight can age us by a few years; after that point, however, we begin to lose a certain plumpness associated with youth, especially in the face (specifically, in the cheeks and around the eyes). The less fat we have in those areas, the older we look—and the thinner you are, the more apparent that loss of volume is.

The Solution

It may be difficult to do this—especially if you’ve spent a lifetime watching your weight (or trying to lose it)—but when you get to an age where you’re starting to lose volume in your face, it may be time to reframe how you think about exercise. Stop looking at it as a way to shed pounds, and start looking at it as a way to simply keep your body healthy. If you’ve always been on the low side of the BMI scale, consider letting yourself gain a couple of pounds. It might sound scary, but, crazy as it may seem, it could make you look younger!

If you’re interested in learning more about how to keep yourself looking healthy, vibrant, and youthful, give us a call here at the San Francisco Plastic Surgery & Laser Center. Consults are free, and we’re happy to help!