NEW YORK, Nov. 8 The changing of the season brings coolerweather, shorter days and more people heading to health clubs for a healthydose of indoor exercise. While experts agree that exercise is one of the mostbeneficial activities a person can do to improve one's overall health,dermatologists want gym goers to be aware of the hidden dangers of exercise --bothersome skin conditions that can be painful and inhibit further physicalactivity if left untreated.
Speaking today at the American Academy of Dermatology's (Academy) SkinAcademy, dermatologist Brian B. Adams, MD, MPH, FAAD, associate professor ofdermatology at the University of Cincinnati and director of dermatology at theVeterans Administration Medical Center, both in Cincinnati, Ohio, discussedthe most common skin conditions to which people who engage in regular indoorexercise are susceptible and how to treat them.
"Despite its positive effect on a person's physical and psychologicalhealth, regular exercise does not necessarily improve our skin health and mayin fact lead to a rash of skin conditions that require treatment," said Dr.Adams. "While exercising indoors eliminates the threat of skin cancer and sundamage, it is important for people who frequent health clubs to be aware ofthe risks to their skin as well."
Blisters form when friction between an area of the body and athleticequipment causes a splitting of the top layer of skin, allowing fluidbuild-up. Runners and those who routinely lift weights often developblisters. Dr. Adams suggests that the key to preventing blisters is to reducefriction by creating more distance from the equipment to the skin.
"Wearing moisture-wicking socks, applying a thin layer of petroleum jellybetween the sock and the shoe, and using gloves to lift weights can helpprevent blisters from forming," said Dr. Adams. "Also, there is no betterdressing for blisters than your own skin, so you should not peel off the toplayer of a blister. If it comes off, keep the blister covered with petroleumjelly and a bandage."
While blisters normally do not become infected, Dr. Adams cautioned thatredness appearing on the skin in the vicinity of the blister could indicate aninfection and should be treated by a dermatologist.
Unfortunately, health clubs are breeding grounds for all kinds offungus -- from swimming pool floors and diving boards to showers and lockerrooms. The most common contagious fungal infection that exercise enthusiastsare prone to developing is tinea pedis, or athlete's foot. This fungus growsbest in dark, moist and warm environments, making sweaty feet tucked insiderunning shoes perfect targets.
Perhaps the most bothersome symptom of athlete's foot is the itching andburning sensation people feel on their feet. In some individuals, the skinbetween the toes peels, cracks and scales, while others may experienceredness, scaling or dryness on the soles and along the sides of the feet.Some people who develop athlete's foot also may be at risk for toenail fungus,which can be difficult to treat without dermatologic care.
"The best defense against athlete's foot is to never go barefoot in ahealth club," advised Dr. Adams. "Wear shoes, socks, sandals or aquatic shoesat all times."
Dr. Adams added that most cases of athlete's foot respond well toover-the-counter medications, but persistent or recurring infections willrequire prescription-strength medications from a dermatologist.
Regular exercisers also may be susceptible to acne mechanica, a form ofacne that can occur under athletic equipment or tight-fitting clothing. Acnemechanica typically develops in warm, moist environments -- especially areasprone to friction. Wearing tight-fitting exercise shorts made ofnon-breathable fabrics can even cause an acne flare-up on th