Everyday life with psoriatic arthritis is tough. The joints are inflamed, swollen and painful. Doesn’t sound like the ideal conditions for doing sports. But that’s exactly what people with psoriasis should do: Actively improve psoriasis and general health through exercise and sports.
But why does sport influence psoriasis? What positive effects does targeted exercise have on psoriasis? And which sports are particularly suitable for treating psoriatic arthritis?
Psoriasis rarely comes alone
Most people suffering from psoriasis do not only suffer from the skin disease. About 70 percent of all patients suffer from other concomitant diseases – the so-called comorbidities. Almost every third person also suffers from psoriatic arthritis (PsA).
PsA is the most frequent concomitant disease of psoriasis and has meanwhile also established itself as a separate form of psoriasis. In this form, the inflammation spreads to the cells of the joints, ligaments and tendons. Inflammatory swollen joints or entire limbs such as fingers are the result. Mostly hands, knees, feet or even the spine are affected.
The symptoms of psoriatic arthritis can occur in episodes with longer interruptions and cause severe pain. Many people suffering from psoriatic arthritis therefore avoid movement in their lives.
In addition, there are fears that sport could have a negative effect on psoriasis, increase discomfort and damage the joints in psoriatic arthritis. But in fact, the exact opposite is true: sport has a positive effect on the symptoms of your psoriasis (and especially PsA), your health and your life as a whole.
How sport specifically improves psoriasis
Sport inhibits inflammation factors
Sport has an anti-inflammatory effect. This means that when we exercise, fewer inflammatory reactions take place in our body. About 20 to 30 minutes of regular, moderate exercise, such as cycling or swimming, already has an anti-inflammatory effect.
This also affects the inflammation in the joints affected by psoriatic arthritis. These can be reduced through sport and, as part of a holistic treatment, lead to an improvement in symptoms.
Sport keeps your joints flexible
Anyone who suffers from psoriatic arthritis probably knows it. Not only does it often cause swelling and pain, but also stiff joints make everyday life more difficult. Sport helps to improve your joint function and helps you to stay flexible.
Regular, targeted training, especially in the form of physiotherapy, prevents stiffening of the joints and reduces malpositions. In addition, muscles and tendons are actively strengthened, thus relieving the joints. Physiotherapy as a measure to support therapy is one of the most important components of the treatment of psoriatic arthritis.
Sport helps with stress
Stress is one of the biggest psoriasis triggers we know. It triggers acute psoriasis attacks and can worsen existing psoriasis. When dealing with psoriasis, it is therefore important to find ways to reduce stress. If the stress in your life is reduced, this can lead to an improvement in psoriasis.
Sport is a real stress killer and also helps to boost your self-confidence. It has been proven that when we exercise, we reduce stress and our body also releases happiness hormones.
In addition, we can make wonderful new contacts, maintain friendships and improve our social life during sporting activities. Sport increases our well-being. We are more relaxed and happier, which has a positive effect on psoriasis and especially on psoriatic arthritis.
Sport helps with obesity
Being overweight can have a negative influence on the course of the disease in PsA. Every kilo too much is critical because the joints are already strained by the disease. Less weight can reduce pain and promote mobility.
It is therefore important to avoid being overweight. Sport, along with a balanced diet, plays the most important role in controlling our weight.
Sport helps with concomitant diseases
Psoriatic arthritis also frequently occurs with comorbidities. People with PsA have a higher risk of developing diabetes, metabolic syndrome or heart disease, for example.
Sport has a positive effect on our cardiovascular system, metabolism, blood pressure and breathing. Targeted physical activity can thus actively reduce the risk of concomitant diseases when treating psoriasis.
Which types of sports positively influence psoriasis
Physiotherapy is an important part of the treatment of psoriatic arthritis and should be used by you if you suffer from the disease. The aim of the therapy is to relieve affected joints, to loosen stiffness and to maintain mobility.
The exercises that are performed are individually adapted to the patient and his or her needs. The earlier the therapy begins, the better. In this way, permanent damage to joints and a progression of the disease can be prevented or at least slowed down.
A perfect complement to physiotherapy for you are other sports activities. In principle, the following applies to all patients with psoriatic arthritis: Sport should be fun, and you should feel good! Which sport is the right one, however, also depends on the joints that are affected. Sport must always be adapted to the needs of the body.
In the case of psoriatic arthritis, sport that puts little strain on the joints is recommended. Ideal examples are
- Riding a bike,
- Aqua Gymnastics or
- Cross-country skiing
Chinese movement mediations such as Tai Chi or Qi Gong are also suitable. The exercises, which are easy on the joints, stimulate all muscle groups and additionally train balance, breathing, memory and coordination.
It is better to avoid sports that put strain on the joints and are prone to injury. These include sports with abrupt movements and sudden braking above all, such as football, tennis or alpine skiing.
Sports activities should be discussed in advance with a doctor or physiotherapist. Both know you, your illness and your limitations. They can give you tips and help you to find the ideal sports activity. Together you can create a suitable training plan for you to keep sufficiently active.
If sport is intended to improve psoriasis in a targeted manner: What is there to consider?
Training in moderation
Once you have found the right sport, you should not overstrain yourself with it. Three to four light training sessions per week are already enough to achieve positive effects. Especially if you have not done any sports before, you should take it slowly.
Accept your own performance limits and improve over time. But the most important thing: Have fun! Sport should do you good and not be an additional burden.
Training in pain?
The following applies to psoriatic arthritis: For affected joints it is better to keep moving than to rest. But there will simply be days when your joints hurt too much and you will not be able to perform your usual sports routine. Especially during an acute relapse, it is important to be aware of your limits. After all, incorrect strain can be a risk and lead to an aggravation of the inflammation in the joint.
For these moments it is important to have a plan B. For example, if your knees hurt, you can take an aqua-gym course instead of walking as usual. Try to do some exercise on such days too, because physical activity and sport also helps to improve psoriatic arthritis symptoms.
In a nutshell: Tips for sports with psoriasis
- Fun is a must! Therefore, it is important that you find the right sport for you, your needs and “your” psoriasis.
- Training partners are the best motivation par excellence. Get moving together – and stay moving in the long run.
- Even the smallest success is balm for the soul. Set yourself sporting goals – but only in small and realistic stages to keep up your motivation.
- You are the one who knows your personal performance limits best. Listen to your body and its needs.
- No one is born a master. Especially if you have not done any or only little sport so far, it is important to start consciously and slowly.
Benefit for body & soul: positively influence psoriasis through exercise and sport
Sport gets our cardiovascular system going, reduces stress, makes us happy and counteracts obesity – sport is good for all of us! With psoriatic arthritis, however, it is particularly necessary to be active. Sport is one of the most important therapeutic measures and helps to minimize the risk of affected joints no longer remaining mobile.
But before you start your training, talk to your doctor or physiotherapist. Together you can determine which sports and intensity are suitable for you and which activities you should rather avoid.
What is your experience with psoriatic arthritis and sports? What sports do you do? Have you had to give up sports because of PsA? How do you behave during acute attacks: Do you motivate yourself to a light work-out or do you prefer to rest at home? Tell us about your personal tips and experiences – also in our Facebook group! We are curious!
FAQ about sports & psoriasis
Which sport for psoriatic arthritis?
As a fundamental part of the therapy for psoriatic arthritis, physiotherapy aims to relieve the affected joints, loosen existing stiffness and maintain mobility. Sports that place little stress on the joints are suitable for more physical activity and movement. These include cycling, walking, swimming, aqua gymnastics and cross-country skiing. Meditative sports such as yoga, tai chi or qi gong are also very popular with people affected by psoriatic arthritis, as they serve not only as a physical component but also as mental training and help to reduce stress.
What is psoriatic arthritis?
Psoriatic arthritis is a chronic inflammation of the joints, usually affecting the hands, feet and spine. The symptoms are joint pain, swelling and significant restrictions in movement. Psoriatic arthritis (PsA for short) occurs in about 30 percent of psoriasis patients. This form of psoriasis often starts insidiously and can appear at any age. It occurs particularly frequently for the first time between the ages of 30 and 50. If psoriatic arthritis is not treated, it can lead to deformations and in the worst case to the destruction of the joints.
Does psoriasis develop due to stress?
Stress is considered one of the strongest triggers for psoriasis. It can trigger new psoriasis attacks or worsen an existing psoriasis. As a psoriasis sufferer, it is important to find ways to specifically reduce or avoid stress. However, stress alone is not enough to trigger psoriasis. According to medical experts, there must be a genetic predisposition (disposition) for psoriasis. So-called triggers (triggering factors) then act in interaction with the genes and can promote the onset of psoriasis. In addition to stress, other possible triggers of psoriasis include certain drugs, skin injuries, obesity and alcohol.
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Bernd is one of the founders of Simply Psoriasis. He has been suffering from psoriasis for more than 20 years, but sees the chronic skin disease with more composure than a few years ago (which was a hard work). Nevertheless, he is very keen to make psoriasis easier and more socially accepted.