Does Running Make You Age: Here’s The Truth!
Yes, running can make you look older IF you don’t take proper measures to protect your skin. The truth is, running can be stressful to your body, especially when done in the daylight for extended periods of time.
Running is supposed to make us healthier and add years to our lives. However, if you’ve been in the running community for a while, you’ve likely heard the term “runner’s face.”
You know it when you see it, “runner’s face” is that wrinkly, gaunt appearance of someone who has logged countless miles in the sun. Running is supposed to be good for your health, so why do some runners look unhealthy and older than they are?
In this article, we will examine this question and do a deep dive looking into whether running workouts make you look older or look younger, and provide tips to protect your skin from the stressors that may come with running.
So, let’s go!
What is runner’s face?
Runner’s face is a face with thin, sagging skin and sun damage.
Runner’s face is a term that was coined more than a dozen years ago. It was used by plastic surgeons advertising Botox and injectable fillers such as Restylane, Juvederm Ultra, and Radiesse.
One press release from a plastic surgeon’s office claimed that “runner’s face” is created when an athlete burns off fat beneath the layers of his/her skin…The marked loss of fatty tissue results in a loss of elasticity and volume, which leads to a “prominent appearance of the bones, accelerated development of skin laxity and deepening of wrinkles.”
Does running cause skin to sag?
Others have theorized that the bouncing caused by the high impact of running can cause your skin to sag, leading to runner’s face. However, no studies support this claim.
The factors that may lead to thinner, saggy skin have more to do with sun damage and a low body fat percentage than anything else.
So, does running make you look older?
So, yes, running can make you look older and IF you don’t take proper measures to protect your skin (more on that in a bit).
The truth is, running can be stressful to your body, especially when done in the daylight for extended periods of time.
Here are the 3 main causes of how running can accelerate the aging process.
3 Reasons why running can make you look old
1. UV Exposure
The biggest culprit for runners looking older than they are is being in the sun without protection.
Overexposure to the sun’s radiation can lead to skin damage such as:
- Loss of volume
- Thickened skin
- Uneven pigmentation
- Dark spots
- Pre-skin cancer and skin cancer
Many runners, especially long-distance runners and marathoners, spend hours in the sun each week.
Over time, this UV exposure can wreak havoc on your skin, making you look older.
2. Free radicals
Some research has shown that running can make you age due to factors such as free radical exposure, which are unstable atoms that can damage cells, causing illness and aging.
Your body produces free radicals when it’s under stress.
The harder the physical activity, the more free radicals are produced. Your body uses antioxidants produced inside your body or consumed as part of your diet to combat these unstable atoms. When there is an imbalance, that is called oxidative stress.
The unbalanced free radicals can damage the skin, causing a breakdown of collagen and elastin, leading to sagging and aging.
There are also free radicals in the air from pollution, which can cause skin damage.
If you run in an urban environment or an area with lots of pollution, the more oxidative stress your body will undergo.
3. Weight loss
When we lose weight, we lose fat all over our bodies, including in our faces. This can lead to the appearance of thin or sagging skin.
This is especially true if a lot of weight has been lost. The bigger our body mass, the more our skin stretches to accommodate the size. Over time, this can damage the elastin and collagen in the skin.
When we lose weight, we don’t have these elements for our skin to bounce back and tighten. The result is sagging skin.
But don’t hang up your running shoes just yet. There are lots of benefits of running for anti-aging.
Hear me out.
Is running good for anti-aging?
Yes, running is good for anti-aging. There are anti-aging benefits for all the potential age accelerators that come with running.
Here are the 3 main anti-aging benefits of running.
3 Anti-aging Benefits of Running
1. Improved circulation
Running increases the blood flow in your body, which increases the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your skin. This helps repair the skin and increase collagen production, making your skin appear plumper and firmer.
This increased circulation also helps cellular turnover for more youthful-looking skin and the removal of toxins.
By the way, improved circulation can also help boost immunity.
2. Moisture boost
Sweat is a great moisturizer. When you sweat, your body produces sebum, a natural lipid-based oil, and urea, a humectant that absorbs moisture from the environment and draws it to the skin.
These two components soften and moisturize your skin (in fact, urea is an ingredient in many skin care products to enhance skin hydration).
Sweating is also another way your body can release toxins in the body, as you likely already know if you’ve ever sat in a steam room or sauna.
3. Less stress
When we run, we decrease the level of the stress hormone cortisol in our bodies.
Too much cortisol in the body can lead to a slew of health issues, including weight gain, stress, anxiety, increased blood pressure, fatigue, headaches, and intestinal issues.
4 Tips to Save Your Skin When Running
So, how can we get the benefits of running without looking older than we really are?
There are ways to counteract the so-called “runner’s face.”
Here are 4 tips to save your skin from the stress of running.
1. Use sunscreen
First and foremost, protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays by trying to run early in the morning or evening and always applying sunscreen. Be sure to apply it ahead of running outdoors to allow the sunscreen to soak in before heading out to run.
Also, if you’re going for a long run, bring some sunscreen with you to reapply as it may wear off from your sweat.
Choose a broad-spectrum brand and water and sweat-resistant.
Pair the use of sunscreen with a hat, sunglasses, and UV protective clothing.
You can also boost your UV protection by taking the vitamin nicotinamide, which aids DNA repair and reduces UV-induced suppression of immunity.
2. Take in Vitamins C & E
Help balance free radicals by applying topical vitamin C and E serums to your face before heading out into the sun.
You can also fight skin damage caused by excess free radicals and improve cellular regeneration with your diet.
Eat colorful foods rich in antioxidants such as:
- Dark chocolate
3. Botox and fillers
Cosmetic procedures and enhancements such as Dysport or Botox can help relax the muscles in your face and temporarily reduce the appearance of wrinkles. These injections also act as a preventative measure against wrinkles.
Injectables such as fillers such as Restylane, Juvederm Ultra, and Radiesse fill in untreatable lines by Botox such as smile lines to minimize the appearance of deep wrinkles that characterize “runner’s face.”
As Seneca the younger said: “Everything that exceeds the bounds of moderation has an unstable foundation.”
This is true for all who start running. The more you run and the harder you run, the more oxidative stress you produce on your body. This oxidative stress can lead to facial aging, especially when not counteracted by antioxidants.
So, if you are worried about the appearance of sagging skin and wrinkles, run in moderation and:
- Run most of your runs easy, in the early morning or at sunrise.
- Eat lots of berries.
- Slather on the sunscreen and serums, and enjoy your healthy habit, which will add years to your life.
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