Special to the Sun-Gazette

Many psoriasis sufferers avoid exercise in order to avoid an outbreak of red scaly patches and lesions.

However, new research suggests that a good workout may actually promote healthy skin. The study found that vigorous exercise can reduce the risk of developing the chronic inflammation.

Equally prevalent in men and women, Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital collected data on nearly 867,000 women. Among these women, 1,026 had psoriasis.

The study found that when the women engaged in physical activity at least three hours per week, they experienced a reduction in skin inflammation.

According to the World Psoriasis Day consortium, 125 million people worldwide have psoriasis, with 7.5 million of those being Americans. Although progress is being made, there is still no singular cause or trigger for psoriasis.

Scientists believe psoriasis is triggered by an abnormal immune system response that causes the rapid development of skin cells.

While they differ for each patient, scientists identified the following as known psoriasis triggers: obesity, stress, skin injury (vaccinations, sunburns and scratches), certain medications, diet, smoking and alcohol.

There are several types of psoriasis. Plaque psoriasis impacts about 80 percent of those affected with the disease and is distinguished by raised, inflamed, red lesions covered by a silvery white scale.

This mild form of psoriasis is often found on the elbows, knees, scalp and lower back.

The most severe form of psoriasis is called erythrodermic, which generally covers most of the skin and requires immediate hospitalization. Symptoms include increased heart rate, severe itching, pain and fluctuating body temperature.

Patients may also experience excessive protein and fluid loss which can lead to dehydration, heart failure and other severe illnesses.

Although there is no cure to date, there are several treatments that can help keep symptoms at bay.

Besides topical treatments, doctors may prescribe phototherapy (light therapy) and/or systemic medications.

Phototherapy exposes the skin to ultraviolet light on a regular basis and under medical supervision. Systemic medications are prescription drugs.

“Exercise is a terrific addition to the treatment plan prescribed by your doctor,” says Helen “Mitzi” Miller, certified physician assistant at Jersey Shore Hospital.

“Obesity can lead to chronic inflammation, and increased cardiac risks,” she said. “Also, the body may create more fat cells in response to increased inflammation, making it even more important to engage in physical activity.”

Individuals who suffer from psoriasis are at greater risk of developing lymphoma, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Psoriasis can also lead to psoriatic arthritis which can cause permanent joint damage and deformities of the joints, fingers and toes.

“Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are inhibiting, painful diseases,” says Pat Cooper, vice president for clinical operations at Quorum Health Resources. “Not only does the cost of treatment exceed thousands of dollars, there is also an economic toll. According to, last year approximately 60 percent of psoriasis patients missed an average of 26 days of work due to their illness.”

High-energy workouts such as running, swimming, basketball, football and other aerobic activities are all good options for sufferers.

With treatment and exercise, most patients are delighted to learn that they can improve the appearance of their skin and even the chances of living a long and healthy life.

This article was provided courtesy of Jersey Shore Hospital and Quorum Health Resources, LLC. Please consult a physician before beginning on any exercise regimen.