According to new research, vigorous exercise may help reduce women’s risk of developing the autoimmune skin condition psoriasis.
For their study, researchers at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston looked at data on more than 866,000 women who took part in the U.S. Nurses’ Health Study II. Of these, 1,026 women suffered from psoriasis. The investigators found that the women who exercised the most had a significantly reduced risk of psoriasis when compared to those who exercised the least.
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But the scientists also found that a reduction in psoriasis risk was only linked with the most intense kinds of exercise. For example, women who ran, participated in aerobic exercise, or who did calisthenics – all high-intensity types of exercise – showed a lower risk of psoriasis. But women whose exercise regimens included lower intensity exercise such as walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, or playing tennis did not show a drop in their psoriasis risk.
Researchers aren't certain what it is about vigorous exercise that appeared to lower study participants’ psoriasis risk, but they do have some theories.
Exercise has been linked to reduced rates of such diseases as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, colon cancer, and breast cancer, all diseases that are linked to higher levels of inflammation in the body. Psoriasis also is linked to higher levels of inflammation. Thus, it would make sense that the more a person exercises – and the more intensely he or she does it – the more benefits the body gets in terms of a reduction in inflammation.
Exercise is also a stress reliever, and it helps fight depression. Previous research has found a link between depression, high stress levels, and psoriasis, as well.
The best thing that can be taken away from this study is further evidence that exercise can be an easily accessible tool for people hoping to fight chronic disease. You may be one of the many people who have a family history of this condition and feels that this means there’s nothing you can do to lower your risk for this painful disease. This study shows that there are, in fact, healthy habits you can develop that lower not just your risk for psoriasis, but other diseases as well.
Sources: Archives of Dermatology; Reuters Health