Exercising with Hidradenitis Suppurativa

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: December 2020

Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is a chronic, painful skin condition. HS is complicated in nature, and doctors can have a difficult time treating it. HS is much more than a skin condition. The long-term irritation caused by HS happens within the body. This irritation shows up outside the body on the skin.

Treatment of HS can be difficult because doctors are still learning more about the condition. One thing doctors do know is that being overweight can worsen symptoms of the disease. Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight is a general goal of treatment for HS.

Exercise can not only help you lose or maintain your weight, it can also make you feel better. But how can you exercise in order to lose weight if you have painful wounds on your body? To make matters worse, these wounds usually occur in the areas where your skin rubs together – your armpits and groin, most likely. Sweating can make your HS wounds hurt more, making it difficult to exercise.

There are some exercise tips and tricks to keep in mind for adding exercise to your daily schedule. As always, make sure you are able to perform exercise by talking to your doctor beforehand.

Be more active

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 225 to 420 minutes per week of exercise to achieve weight loss, and 200 to 300 minutes per week of physical activity to prevent weight gain after weight loss.1

Try to make it a goal to be more active. Add movement to your daily activities, such as:

  • Parking further away from your destination and walking more
  • Taking the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Taking brief walks during break time at work

Types of exercise

Activities for exercise should include those that increase your heart rate. Walking, hiking, and dancing may be good choices.

Some doctors may recommend swimming as a good choice for exercise because it is easy on your joints and has minimal friction of clothing during activity. It is possible that the chlorine chemical found in swimming pools may be helpful for those with HS. Swimming may not be a good idea if you have open, draining wounds. Talk to your doctor to see if this is a good choice for you.

Resistance training, such as weight lifting, also leads to a reduction in body fat.

Clothing considerations

HS wounds are typically found in areas where skin rubs together, such as your armpits or groin. Exercise can further irritate these areas if you are not wearing proper clothing. Wearing breathable, loose-fitting clothing during the day is best to prevent irritation and allow your skin to breathe. However, when you sweat, you may need to find clothing that works best to avoid sweat trapping on your skin.2,3

Do not go at it alone

When faced with HS and having to change your lifestyle habits, you may feel overwhelmed. Do not go at it alone. Taking an active part of your treatment plan will help you live your best life with HS. You are not the only person who can help – your doctor can help guide you to the best options for you. You may need additional support. Remember that even small changes in your activity may help you feel better overall.

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