Rosacea and Exercise: Why I Do It, Rosy Cheeks or Not

Hi Rosy Friends, 🌸

I’ve had the topic of rosacea and exercise in my mind for some time now but haven’t found the drive to write about it.  It’s one of those topics that can feel so big that I’m not sure how I’ll tackle it.  Still, I’ve done two videos about it, so here goes!

Why I Exercise

Exercise with Rosacea | Rosy JulieBCSince I was a teen, I haven’t been much of a fan of exercising.  I was a very active kid. I didn’t walk anywhere when I could run instead. I rode my bike all the time. I swam nearly every day of the summer.

Then came gym class in middle school and high school, which took the fun out of sports.  Then I was hit by a car while riding my bike (I was on the gravel shoulder, but a car drove too close and its mirror clipped me) and lost my passion for cycling.  In my very early 20s, I was prescribed antidepressants, which caused me to gain about 70 pounds, taking me from underweight to obese in a short amount of time and making it more difficult to comfortably stay fit.

It’s not that I was completely inactive. I lived downtown Toronto for several years. There, it just makes sense to walk places. That said, when I walked there, I always wore great shoes.  As a result, my feet were pretty much permanently blistered and bruised, so the walking I was doing never really reached a great cardio level.

I reached the point that I hated the way I looked and the way I felt.  Rosacea only made that worse.  I decided to try to forget about the things I couldn’t do anything about and do my best to improve the areas I did have under my control.

Physical Health

I started walking for exercise.  Over time, I built up my speed, distance and enjoyment.  I never feel like going for a walk, but I still do it six days per week and once I’m outside, I love it. I’ve been doing it for years, and I enjoy it just as much now as I did when I started.

I’ve lost weight (made easier because I haven’t used antidepressants for years), my energy is higher, I feel physically better overall. I also feel good about what I’m doing for my future healthy. I have every intention of doing what I can to keep my risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and cancer as low as I can.

Mental Health

mental health and exercise | Rosy JulieBCI’m a packet of mental health fun.  I suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Social Anxiety Disorder with a related panic disorder, depression, and I have certain notable obsessive compulsive thoughts and behaviours, though I’m not certain whether or not they’re destructive enough to be considered a disorder or not. I have not been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

As a fan of the VlogBrothers YouTube channel and author John Green (half of the VlogBrothers), I came across the 100 Days YouTube channel by John Green. He suffers from mental health struggles, too, and decided to take on a serious lifestyle change – along with his best friend – and see what difference adopting a far healthier lifestyle would make to his physical and mental health.

He exercised like a fiend and learned to like it (to a certain extent haha) and experienced a spectrum of mental and physical health benefits.  The physical health differences, I expected, but his mental health improvements inspired me to make some serious changes to my own lifestyle. I already ate carefully with tons of nutritious foods that I love, but I knew my activity level could be improved.  He was right.  Very right. Immeasurably right.  I’m grateful to him for sharing his experience because I’m now enjoying similar mental health benefits. It has been life-changing.

Here is a reflection he shared partway through his 100 days (Day 70) to describe some of his mental health struggles and the difference his lifestyle change has made for him because he describes it far more clearly than I do.

Rosacea Symptom Control

When I first started exercising regularly, I felt like I was doing it despite my rosacea. I was doing it for my overall wellness even though it made my cheeks red. Today, I feel that I’m exercising as a part of my Rosy Lifestyle.

Exercising has done a great deal for my rosacea symptoms control.  For one thing, the more I exercise, the longer it takes for physical activity to make my cheeks red.  It makes complete sense, but I hadn’t expected it.  The fitter I am, the easier it is on my body to do certain everyday tasks and activities.  Since they’re easier, they don’t cause my cheeks to flare as easily.

Running up a few flights of stairs, carrying all my groceries in from the car in a single trip, doing a bit of heavy lifting, rushing around to do that frenzied last-minute vacuuming and bathroom cleaning before an unexpected guest says they’re on their way…they used to be massive triggers for me but aren’t anymore.  It takes more than that.

At the same time, since anxiety is one of my top triggers and regular exercise has made an astounding difference to my ability to control my anxiety symptoms, it has meant that my trigger exposure has been shrinking as long as I keep up regular exercise. This is great not only because of the reduction in this one trigger but it also helps me to avoid experiencing multiple triggers at once.  After all, sunlight exposure when I’m anxious causes a far more noticeable reaction than sunlight when I’m calm (though sunlight will cause a reaction regardless).

So while it does take some careful strategy to exercise while avoiding unwanted lasting rosy cheeks, the more I do it, the lower my risk of experiencing a rosacea flare-up in the first place.

How I Prevent Rosacea Flare-Ups From Exercise

Hydration

Adequate hydration is vital to your body’s ability to control temperature – among many, many other things.  To keep my body cool and to ensure it’s functioning optimally on the whole, I drink water before I exercise, I take pauses to drink water during a workout, and I drink water once I’m done my workout.

Dressing Cool

I’d love to say that I mean I’m dressing cool 😎 , but I’m pretty sure nobody would agree that I look that great in the clothes I wear for a workout because I do most of my workouts in my home so I don’t pay much attention to what matches or looks good together. It’s mostly about what will keep me cool (temperature) and comfortable.  I dress in something sleeveless and breathable. Even if I’m freezing at the time because it’s the middle of winter, that’s what I wear because I know I’ll warm up as I exercise.  The cooler I stay, the less likely I am to end up with rosy cheeks.

Ice Towels

These things are sold everywhere. Some are called cooling towels, ice towels, cooling scarves, cooling fitness towel, sports ice towel, and other similar names.  I got mine at the local dollar store, but I’ve seen them in lots of stores, especially in fitness sections or in impulse item sections.  I’ve seen them on Amazon and even in homeware stores and clothing stores that have activewear lines.

I love mine and have been using it since last summer. I use it as a scarf or even a headband. It works very well for easy added cooling I can use anywhere.

Skin Care

After a big workout, I make sure to take good care of my skin. I’ll mist it with thermal water (something that works great for some people and terribly for others, so please don’t just follow my strategy assuming it will work for you).

If I get very sweaty, I’ll gently cleanse and moisturize my face and neck using skin care I know is non-irritating.  That way, I’m not giving unwanted bacteria the chance to move in and multiply. A sweaty or drying-sweaty face is a breeding ground for bacteria, so I try not to mess around with that.

How I Exercise Despite My Rosacea

Cardio

Strider Exercise Machine | Rosy JulieBC
My strider machine – on lots of floor padding so it won’t bug my downstairs neighbours and with shoes on the pedals because their surface hurts my feet 😅

Most of the exercise I do is cardio.  I like it for its heart health benefits, that it helps with weight control, and I feel good doing it.  Every hour from 9 am to 3-4 pm, I do 6 minutes of medium to high intensity cardio exercise.  I have a strider machine (same concept as a Gazelle, only smaller and quieter because I have downstairs neighbours I don’t want to irritate every hour throughout the day) that I use for getting my heart rate up in a low-impact way.

In the evening, I head out for a 30-45 minute brisk walk outside for the chance to breathe outdoor air and talk with my walking partner. Outdoor exercise has its own unique benefits, as do workouts with other people, so I take full advantage nearly every day.  It takes some very extreme weather for me to avoid going out.  I just make sure to dress properly and protect my skin.

 

Strength Training

I also recognize that a complete healthy exercises strategy includes strength training. I do some exercises with hand weights for my upper body and to keep my arms toned (or to get them there in the first place haha).

I also do an isotonic workout routine to target major muscle groups and keep them toned for improved strength and balance and to build and maintain lean muscle.  At the moment, my isotonic workout looks like this, though it changes as my fitness level improves:

  • Squats x 12
  • Side Leg Raises x 20
  • Donkey Kicks x 20
  • Rest x 20 seconds (during which I get into the next move’s position)
  • Heel touches x 20
  • Russian Twists x 12 OR Bridges x 12 (depending on my skin condition that day)
  • Reach Throughs x 12
  • Rest x 20 seconds (during which I get into the next move’s position)
  • Knee Hugs x 20
  • Side bends x 20
  • Squats x 12
  • Side Leg Raises x 20
  • Donkey Kicks x 20

Flexibility Training

I do yoga once per week, though my goal is to increase it to at least twice per week.  I love it.  Sometimes I follow YouTube videos. Other times, I follow one of the DVDs I’ve purchased over the years.  I prefer YouTube since it’s convenient, but the routines I have on DVD are perfect for me, so it makes it worth waiting for the disc to load and for all the warnings and ads to play (while I mash the remote knowing darned well that it doesn’t help…fortunately, yoga also helps me to control my DVD startup-related rage).

I love yoga for the improvements it has made to my flexibility, balance and overall calm.  Both the DVDs and the YouTube channel I prefer are from Gaiam, though I’m sure there are tons of other great ones out there. These just happen to be the ones that work for me. Here’s one I like to do to charge myself up.  The same channel has a great one for winding down and rejuvenating, too.

I’ve recently signed up for my first Tai Chi class. I’ve never done Tai Chi before, but it looks interesting and the class runs at a convenient time for me, so I’m eager (and nervous) to give it a try. I’ll be sure to blog and/or create a YouTube video as I get going with that, starting in late April.

 

Please remember that I am not a physical trainer, a skin care expert, a nutritionist, or an expert in pretty much anything else health-related.  I’m a novelist. So if you’re looking to make changes to your own healthy lifestyle, please consult with a health care professional because I’m certainly not qualified to give any advice.  This is just a description of my own active lifestyle, why I’ve made the choices I’ve made and how they help me keep my rosacea under control. 🌸

 

 

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