A Guide to Exercising With Eczema

It all begins with sweat control

Exercise can cause eczema to flare, resulting in itchy skin. However, exercise is also associated with improved immune function and reduced stress and anxiety, critical factors in managing eczema.

Learn more about how exercise affects eczema and how to mitigate symptoms.

Woman in sportswear doing zumba in dance class.

Luis Alvarez / Getty Images

Eczema and Exercise

Heat and sweat from exercise are some of the most commonly reported reasons people with eczema avoid physical activity. Exercise-induced sweating increases skin temperature and can aggravate the symptoms of eczema. Sweat is the body's natural way of cooling, but when it evaporates, it can dry out the skin and leave a salty residue, further irritating eczema and causing itchiness.

Taking steps before, during, and after exercise can help to mitigate symptoms. Lower-impact exercises that don't make you sweat excessively might be good alternatives on days when you have a skin flare-up.

Animal studies have shown that some low-impact exercises may improve eczema symptoms by reducing proinflammatory cytokines (proteins that help regulate your inflammatory response). More research is needed to determine which exercises are best for eczema, but learning your triggers can help you create a plan.

Don’t Let Eczema Keep You From Exercising

Although some people avoid exercise because of their eczema, physical activity is an important component of a healthy lifestyle and may even help control eczema symptoms long-term by reducing stress. Understanding the benefits of exercise may motivate you to get moving. In addition, altering your routine and learning how to prepare your skin before, after, and during can improve symptoms.

Benefits of Exercise for Immune Health (and Your Mental Health)

Physical exercise regulates the immune system by releasing pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines and increasing lymphocyte circulation and cell recruitment. Exercise also slows the release of stress hormones; lower amounts of stress hormones may protect against illness.

High levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) can suppress the immune system and cause an inflammatory response in the skin. Exercise may help to prevent this reaction.

People with eczema have a higher inflammatory response, and while controlling mental stress won't eliminate it, it may help with symptoms. People with eczema are also more likely to experience feelings of anxiety and depression. Exercise improves mood by triggering certain neurotransmitters and hormones that improve mood.

Tips to Reduce Sweat and Itchy Post-Workout Eczema

You can do certain things to reduce itchy eczema flares when exercising. These include treating the skin before, during, and after, wearing the proper clothing, and working out in appropriate conditions.

Keep Skin Hydrated

Regularly hydrating your skin with lotions, creams, and ointments is vital in treating eczema because it creates and preserves a skin barrier. A damaged skin barrier leads to dry, itchy skin.

The National Eczema Association recommends lightly applying a cream or ointment an hour before exercise, so it has time to absorb fully. After exercising and showering, you should reapply moisturizer to trap water for maximum hydration.

Avoid Extreme Temperatures

Try to exercise when it is cool outside to reduce sweating. If you live in a warm climate and want to exercise outdoors, do so in the morning or evening when it's cooler. If you are exercising indoors, use spaces that are ventilated, and turn on air-conditioners and fans.

Wear Cotton and Loose-Fitting Clothing

Tight clothes trap sweat, which can aggravate eczema, as can constant friction from clothing against your skin. While loose-fitting, cotton clothing may not be as trendy, this simple swap can help alleviate some symptoms. If you have allergies, read clothing labels carefully, certain materials can be problematic for your skin.

Wipe Away Sweat and Apply Cold When Exercising

You can mitigate eczema flares during exercise, too. Use clean, dry towels to wipe off sweat while working out and whenever possible, use a cooling pad, a cool wet towel, or ice pack to relieve skin during rests. The cold application cools the skin and can reduce inflammation.

Avoid Hot Showers

As good as a hot shower may feel after a workout, hot water can dry out the skin, making eczema worse. Aim to take a quick shower shortly after exercise to rinse away the sweat. Use warm water and lock in moisture by hydrating your skin afterward. In very inflamed areas, you can use wet-wrap therapy, which helps seal moisture and reduce itch and the risk of infection.

Suggestions by Type of Exercise 

It is important to find an activity that you enjoy. The more fun you have, the more likely you'll stick to it. You also want to find activities that help you reach your health goals and don't make your skin uncomfortable.


If cardiovascular exercises, such as running and biking, cause your eczema to flare, you can find other low-impact cardio workouts that may work for you. Consider hiking, gardening, rowing, or brisk walking as alternatives.


Exercises that work on your flexibility, such as stretching, can improve your mobility, agility, and range of motion. These types of exercise may be particularly important for people with eczema because they can increase physical and mental relaxation. They are also less likely to raise body temperatures too high.


Swimming is an excellent low-impact, full-body workout. How your skin reacts to water will vary. For some people, chlorine relieves the skin (it's sometimes compared to the effects of a bleach bath); for others, it may be painful. The same goes for saltwater—it can sting the skin, especially if you have open sores, or its natural salts can be healing.

To prevent symptoms, aim to have the skin hydrated beforehand. When you finish swimming, rinse your body in lukewarm water, reapply moisturizer, and put on clean, dry clothes.

Low-Impact Exercise

Activities such as yoga, pilates, martial arts, and strength training might be good if you are highly reactive to sweat. These activities allow you to take set breaks, which can help the skin cool down. These forms of exercise are essential for building and maintaining muscle and bone health.

Find an Activity You Enjoy

To reap the benefits of exercise both physically and emotionally, you need to be consistent. It's recommended that adults get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and two days of muscle strengthening weekly. You can break up the exercises to fit your lifestyle and decide what works best for you.

During a Flare, Shift Your Expectations and Exercise Plans

A high-intensity workout in the heat can be extremely uncomfortable when your skin is inflamed. In these instances, you may need to shift your expectations and get creative. Perhaps you can aim for short bouts of exercise, such as taking a quick walk around the block during lunch or walking up and down the stairs a few times.


Exercise is important for everyone, including people with eczema. It has proven health benefits, including reducing stress and improving heart health, bone strength, and immunity. Nevertheless, people with eczema may forgo exercise due to fear of skin agitation.

Some strategies can help mitigate skin itchiness and irritation from exercise. These include controlling your body temperature, wearing proper clothing, hydrating your skin before, during, and after a workout, and avoiding hot post-workout showers.

In addition, specific exercises may work better for you than others. Before you skip exercising altogether, see if you can find an activity that you like and can stick with.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is sweat helpful or harmful for eczema?

    Sweat can dry out the skin, which can make eczema worse. In addition, sweat contains sodium, which can sting and irritate eczema.

  • How much water should you drink if you have eczema?

    Staying adequately hydrated can help to protect your skin barrier and keep your skin hydrated. While there are no specific guidelines for people with eczema, the National Academy of Medicine recommends men consume 13 8-ounce cups and women consume nine eight-ounce cups of water daily. If you exercise often or in hot temperatures, you may need more.

  • Should you avoid the sun while exercising with eczema?

    Because heat can also trigger eczema, exercising in the sun may cause eczema to worsen. In addition, tight clothing, such as sweat-resistant clothing often worn in the hot sun, can worsen the condition. You may not need to avoid the sun altogether; instead, aim to work out outside when it is not at its strongest, early in the morning or evening.

13 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Barbie Cervoni MS, RD, CDCES, CDN
Barbie Cervoni MS, RD, CDCES, CDN, is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist.