Drama at the Gym: Getting Past the Clothes and Down to the Workout

Is it us, or do gym clothes keep getting smaller, tighter and more revealing? Who remembers the days of working out in mesh shorts and an oversized t-shirt you picked up for free at last summer’s concert? Those days seem long gone, replaced by a growing world of gym fashionistas who have no problem baring some skin.

And don’t get us wrong, we have nothing against good fashion, or showing some skin for that matter – as they say, if you’ve got it, flaunt it. But what about people living with skin disease? The fear of showing hives, scales or any sign of an outbreak or flare-up can be reason enough to avoid a workout or search for a cover-up.

But let’s think about that for a minute. If you have psoriasis, does that mean you have to work out in sweatpants and a sweatshirt? What about urticaria? If you have a breakout of hives, should you be looking online for a place to buy an adult onesie? Of course not!

So let’s set the record straight. Will people stare? Maybe. Will they notice? Possibly. Will they comment? Probably not. But most importantly, should you care either way? Not one bit.

Like it or not, it’s good for you

We all know that exercise is good for us. It can help you maintain or lose weight, tone your muscles, improve your endurance…the list goes on and on. Emotionally speaking, exercise can help you relieve stress, clear your mind, and just generally feel good. How you ask? When you exercise, you release endorphins, which naturally inhibit pain receptors and therefore aid in pain management1. And, when you feel less pain, you feel better!

But if you’re overweight or obese and living with psoriasis, exercise could have even more benefits than you might think. In this demographic, a recent study found that diet and exercise led to a reduced severity of their psoriasis in combination with treatment.2

And what about urticaria? While there is no research linking the benefits of exercise to urticaria management, working out could help address one of the most common symptoms of the disease – fatigue. Does itching keep you up at night, causing you to feel exhausted the next day? While it may seem counterintuitive to do more when you’re tired, research has shown that in healthy young adults with persistent fatigue, regular, low-intensity exercise could decrease fatigue by up to 65 percent.3

Time to show some skin?

So if we know exercise is important, then how do we face the fear head on? That depends on you. Option 1? Own it. Like it. Love it. Your skin is just that…it’s yours. It’s a part of who you are – scales, hives and all. So if you can muster up the courage, rock that workout tank and flaunt those short shorts.

If people stare, shoot them a smile. If someone asks you what’s wrong, answer honestly. And if anyone makes fun of you, we grant full permission to give them a discerning look and move on with your workout.

But flaunting your skin disease isn’t for everyone. So option 2? No, it’s not avoiding the gym altogether. Your second option is to make fashion work in your favor. Most athletic clothing companies make long-sleeve shirts that aren’t big or bulky. In fact, many are made from lightweight cotton and designed specifically with exercise in mind. Oh, and did we mention that leggings are back in? So grab a pair of long ones. You can always roll them up if you get brave, or quite frankly, if you just get too hot!

Finding your motivation

So what should you wear to the gym? The answer is actually pretty simple. Whatever helps you run that extra kilometer, do that extra set, or push through that high intensity class. Whatever makes you feel comfortable enough to get through the front door and break a sweat. And if you get a strange look from another gym-goer? Use it as motivation – it’s now you against the dirty-look-giver of the day. Work out harder and longer than them. Sweat more. Lift heavier weights. Show them that while they’re busy judging, you’re busy being fabulous.


  1. Sprouse-Blum AS, Smith G, Sugai D, Parsa FD. Understanding Endorphins and Their Importance in Pain Management. Hawaii Medical Journal. 2010;69(3):70-71. Last accessed: 11/3/15.
  2. Diet and physical exercise in psoriasis: a randomized controlled trial. British Journal of Dermatology. L. Naldi,1,2 A. Conti,3 S. Cazzaniga,1 A. Patrizi,4 M. Pazzaglia,4 A. Lanzoni,5 L. Veneziano,5 G. Pellacani3 and the Psoriasis Emilia Romagna Study Group. Accessed 15 October 2015.
  3. A randomized controlled trial of the effect of aerobic exercise training on feelings of energy and fatigue in sedentary young adults with persistent fatigue. Puetz TW, Flowers SS, O'Connor PJ. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics. 2008;77(3):167-74. Accessed 15 October 2015

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