Is there an exercise that can accelerate aging? World-renowned plastic surgeon Dr. Gerald Imber thinks so! According to Dr. Imber, running can age people quicker, and it may even cause a "gaunt and old" appearance. "We're talking about things that prevent aging versus things that accelerate aging," Dr. Imber says in a viral TikTok video. "I have a pet peeve, half my patients love me for it, and half my patients hate me for it, but it's about running."
"It's perfectly fine to run a little bit every day or run a couple of miles a few times a week," he clarifies. "But I want to start this little talk by saying have you ever a seen a long-distance, long-time runner that didn't have a gaunt, old face? That's what happens."
Dr. Imber continues, "In addition to the gaunt, old face, your knees go, your ankles go, your back goes, and it's kind of dumb. So if you want to run a little bit, terrific. But no impact or low impact aerobics is really the way to get your exercise."
Is there some truth to Dr. Imber's claims? Maybe. The answer isn't exactly black and white, but if you've spent time around the running community for a while, you may have heard of a phenomenon called "runner's face." Let's talk about it.
What Is Runner's Face?
Simply put, runner's face is a term used to describe the supposed effects years of running has on your appearance. It also refers to the sagging skin or gaunt look runners have once they cross the finish line. Some speculate the cause of runner's face is due to the impact and bouncing from running, causing the cheeks to sag. Additionally, running burns a lot of fat – meaning it can make someone look older if they lose a significant amount of weight.
While Dr. Imber believes that running can accelerate aging, other plastic surgeons disagree. Dr. Kiya Movassaghi believes long-term sun exposure will lead to aging. He explains that "Slim gardeners, skiers, construction workers, surfers, sailors, tennis players, cyclists, golfers – the list could go on – often have the same characteristics."
Then again, Dr. Charlotte Woodward of River Aesthetics says the motion of running, combined with other factors, can age the face. "Runners, as they age, get hit with a triple whammy of factors that are likely to contribute to aging of the face," she says. "Everyone’s skin loses volume and elasticity as they grow older: thinness makes that volume loss all the more noticeable. Add to that the sun damage as a result of regular exercise in the open air (sweat cancels out the effects of sunblock). And pile onto that the thing which is especially problematic for runners, the repeated pull and stretch on the skin, caused day after day, by the motion of running. Eventually, it’s going to take its toll."
The verdict? Research shows that running still has lots of benefits. So, if you're a runner, keep doing it! However, if you're really concerned about aging, there are extra steps you can take to ensure your skin keeps its shine and elasticity.
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