Hey ASA! Fitness family!
After another Friday evening with her Burnout soldiers, our founder and fitness specialist, Akosua Akoto, was reminded of an interesting little problem some of her clients have with exercise: ITCHY SKIN! So here's a breakdown!
We all have different bodies with a unique set of adaptations to exercise. One of the more surprisingly common reactions to physical activity is an itching sensation when reaching mid to max levels of intensity and most often during running. Don’t be alarmed. You’re not falling apart.
One of the benefits of regular exercise is a more efficient cardiorespiratory system. The cardiorespiratory system consists of the heart and blood vessels, which work with the respiratory system (the lungs and airways). These body systems carry oxygen to the muscles and organs of the body, and remove waste products, including carbon dioxide. One of the major components of the cardiorespiratory system is a network of blood vessels- a tubular structure carrying blood through the tissues and organs. Blood vessels are categorized as
veins (which carry deoxygenated blood toward the heart of reoxygenation)
arteries (which carry oxygenated blood throughout the body)
and capillaries which serve as the sites of oxygen transfer from the bloodstream to other tissues in the body.
When we exercise, our muscles work harder and call for an increased supply of oxygen so that muscles may go through the necessary steps to create energy. The body responds to this demand by increasing heart rate (causing use to breathe harder) to help pull more oxygen into the bloodstream. The increased heart rate means blood flows faster, at which point, capillaries and arteries in the body’s muscles need to expand.
Here is the important part:
When we have reached a certain level of conditioning after consistent exercise, the capillaries stay open to allow for maximum blood passage. When we become deconditioned as a result of limited or interrupted exercise regiments, the capillaries tend to collapse thereby limiting blood passage.
When we get back to or begin exercise at medium or maximal intensities after a period of inactivity, the capillaries expand as needed and may stimulate the surrounding nerves which send messages to the brain that read as an itching sensation. Like flushed or red skin after exercising, the itch is no cause for alarm but should be checked out if it accompanies hives, cramps or difficulty breathing.
Here’s what you can do to prevent exercise induced itching:
Warm up properly especially in cold climates
Moisturize the skin
Keep exercising so as not to interrupt the body’s adaptation to activity