Harvard Health Letter

Preventing psoriasis with exercise

Your next tennis match or swim may help prevent this skin condition.

Psoriasis, the autoimmune disease characterized by patches of irritated, flaky skin on the elbows, knees, and trunk. A study from Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital finds that vigorous exercise may help reduce the risk of psoriasis in women by 25 to 30%. "Inflammation is associated with the risk of psoriasis, and people who exercise vigorously may have less inflammation in their bodies," explains Dr. Abrar Qureshi, associate professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School and the lead author of the study.

Dr. Qureshi and his colleagues found that only very intense activity is associated with a lower risk of new cases of psoriasis. This is a departure from exercise's role in other types of disease prevention, which can benefit from less-intense, but consistent calorie-burning activity, such as walking. "We were surprised," says Dr. Qureshi, "but there's something about the intensity of the activity that's critical in lowering psoriasis risk."

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