Will running make my face sag? Is this a question you’ve ever considered? It wasn’t something that had crossed my mind until someone asked me. They’d read that running was the worst exercise you could do in terms of skin sagging and wrinkles. I decided to investigate and to also consider what runners can do to protect their skin.
Running and skin sagging
It would make sense that the repetitive up and down motion of running would pull on your skin a little and, over time, lead to it sagging wouldn’t it? Well. Let me reassure you that this isn’t the case. There’s no evidence that being a runner means you’re more likely to have sagging jowls or extra wrinkles.
Gravity does exert a downward force but our skin is a very clever organ (yes it’s an organ, the biggest organ in the body). It contains elastin, an elastic fibre which allows skin to bounce back whenever it’s stretched. How much elasticity your skin has is largely determined by your genetics. Your genes are the most important factor influencing skin sagging, not how many miles you’re running. Do remember though that Ultraviolet rays can reduce the elastic properties of skin so it’s important to wear sunscreen to protect it.
Weight loss and skin sagging
If you’ve lost weight through running, then you might feel that your skin has sagged a bit. This could be due to fat loss in the deeper layers of skin. With fewer fat cells to pad out the skin, it can look looser and you might have noticed more wrinkles.
Exercise to reduce ageing
Did you know that exercise is known to be anti-ageing? It’s a powerful tool to slow down the ageing process. Not only can it help us to stay mobile and independent but it actually slows the ageing of our DNA. Our chromosomes have little protective caps on the end of them, these are called telomeres. As we get older, our telomeres shorten and the DNA becomes exposed and open to damage. If we lead an active life and exercise regularly, this natural shortening is slowed down.
Protecting your skin as a runner
As runners we’re outside in all weathers. The rain, sun, cold and wind are all challenging for the skin and can certainly have an effect on how our skin looks. Exercising outdoors gives us so many physical and mental health benefits that far outweigh any effects the elements may have on our skin.
Having said this, it is important to take care of your skin. Here are some simple steps you can take to protect the skin on your face and to keep it healthy generally:
- Don’t smoke – smoking accelerates skin ageing.
- Wear sunscreen – find a daily moisturiser that has an SPF in it so you get year-round protection.
- Protect your skin – alongside sunscreen, wear a hat with a brim and limit the amount of time you spend in the sun.
- Moisturise your skin – long runs in the elements, particularly the wind and cold can dry out the skin. Apply a moisturiser before you go and again after your post-run shower.
- Hydrate well and have a varied diet full of fruit and veg to give your body the building blocks it needs for healthy skin.
This topic is covered in my book Run Well: Essential health questions and answers for runners, published by Bloomsbury and available everywhere you buy books.