Although the benefits of exercise are well-documented, one workout has the potential to age your face prematurely, according to a plastic surgeon.
Dr Gerald Imber, a New York-based plastic surgeon who frequently shares anti-ageing tips and advice on TikTok, addressed the topic in a video posted to the platform last month. He revealed that long-distance running can lead to a “gaunt, old face”.
In the clip, Dr Imber began by noting that he would be discussing “things that prevent ageing, versus things that accelerate ageing”.
The plastic surgeon then revealed that he has a “pet peeve” about running before asking viewers whether they’ve ever seen a “long-distance, longtime runner that didn’t have a gaunt, old face”.
“That’s what happens. In addition to the gaunt old face, your knees go, your ankles go, your back goes and it’s kind of dumb,” Dr Imber said of the exercise, acknowledging that the topic is divisive among his patients.
While Dr Imber advises against long-distance running, he noted that “it’s perfectly fine to run a little bit every day or run a couple of miles a few times a week”.
Dr Imber says there are exercises that are better for your body and for preventing premature ageing: “No impact or low impact aerobics is really the way to get your exercise”.
The idea that running is linked to premature ageing, or “runner’s face,” is not new.
Dr Rachel Nazarian, a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City, previously told HuffPost that studies published in medical journals have found that intense exercises such as running can increase free radical production or oxidative stress.
“When you cause any type of free radical damage or oxidative stress on the skin, it does cause signs that we [attribute] to signs of ageing, such as the breakdown of collagen and elastin, which can lead to sagging,” Dr Nazarian said. “That is sort of the scientifically backed theory on how it could potentially lead to runner’s face.”
In addition to oxidative stress, running outdoors has also been associated with increased sun exposure, which can lead to premature ageing as ultraviolet radiation causes DNA damage, and loss of volume in the face.
Premature ageing linked to volume loss in the face, which can be caused by weight loss, has also been described as “Ozempic face.”
As for Dr Imber’s claim that running negatively impacts your knees, ankles and back, Dr Carlos Uquillas, an orthopaedic surgeon who specialises in injury prevention at the Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute, previously noted that studies show prolonged cardiovascular exercise such as running can increase endorphin levels, improve sleep, lower the risk of depression, improve bone density, and strengthen muscles.
In addition to the health benefits associated with the exercise, running can also put added stress on your back and joints, increase the chances of tearing muscles and exacerbate arthritis.
“It is not an activity without risk, and as you age, you have to take more precautions to minimise the risks,” he said.