Can exercise reverse face aging?

Exercise is widely known to have numerous health benefits, from improving cardiovascular health to reducing the risk of chronic diseases. But can physical activity also slow down or even reverse the effects of aging on our face? As we get older, changes in collagen, elastin, fat, and muscle can lead to wrinkles, sagging, and a loss of facial volume. However, research suggests that exercise may help counteract some of these age-related facial changes. This article will explore the evidence on whether exercise can turn back the clock on facial aging.

How Does Our Face Age?

To understand if exercise can reverse facial aging, we first need to look at what causes our face to age in the first place. There are several key factors that contribute to facial aging over time:

Loss of Collagen and Elastin

Collagen and elastin are proteins that provide structure and elasticity to the skin. As we get older, the production of these proteins declines. This causes the skin to become thinner, lose firmness and resilience, and become more prone to wrinkling. The facial muscles also weaken over time without the support of collagen and elastin.

Loss of Facial Fat

Fat loss in the face is another hallmark of aging. The cheeks, around the eyes, chin, and lips lose volume as facial fat pads begin to diminish. This creates a sunken, hollow look.

Decreased Blood Flow

Reduced circulation to the face means fewer nutrients, hydration, and oxygen are delivered. This accelerates cellular damage and collagen breakdown.

Muscle Loss

Like all muscles in the body, the facial muscles start to atrophy as we get older. This leads to sagging and drooping skin without the underlying muscle tone to support the skin. Dynamic wrinkles also develop as our facial expressions crease the skin over and over.

Bone Resorption

Bones gradually lose density and shrink in size with age. This causes the cheeks to appear more sunken and the underlying facial structure to weaken.

Sun Exposure

Cumulative sun exposure over time damages collagen and accelerates many of the facial aging effects. It also leads to pigmentation changes and age spots.

How Can Exercise Help?

Now that we know why our face ages, can exercise reverse or slow down any of these changes? Here is an overview of how different types of exercise may impact facial aging:

Increases Collagen Production

Exercise helps boost collagen production, which strengthens the structural support network of the skin. Cardiovascular exercise that raises your heart rate increases blood flow and nutrient delivery to the skin. Strength training also stimulates collagen synthesis.

Reduces Inflammation

Exercise causes a short burst of inflammation as your muscles are worked. But over time, regular physical activity has an overall anti-inflammatory effect. Lower levels of inflammation reduce collagen breakdown in the skin.

Improves Lymphatic Drainage

The lymphatic system helps carry away waste and toxins from the skin. Exercise helps improve lymphatic drainage, preventing toxin and fluid buildup that can lead to puffiness and wrinkles.

Increases Blood Flow

Aerobic activity delivers oxygen and nutrients to skin cells and removes waste. This nourishes the skin and stimulates repair and new growth.

Burns Fat

Exercise helps burn overall body fat, including small deposits under the skin. This can restore a more youthful facial contour and volume.

Tones Muscles

Strength training tones and builds muscle mass in the face. This provides a lifting effect to offset sagging. Facial exercises can also target specific muscles like the orbicularis oris muscle around the mouth and lips.

Improves Hormones

Exercise can help regulate hormones like cortisol and human growth hormone that impact skin health and collagen production.

Reduces Stress

The stress reduction benefits of exercise can translate to less frowning and muscle tension in the face. This may help minimize dynamic wrinkles over time.

Exercise Benefit Impact on Facial Aging
Increases collagen production Improves skin structure and elasticity
Reduces inflammation Prevents collagen breakdown
Improves lymphatic drainage Reduces puffiness and wrinkles
Increases blood flow Nourishes skin cells and stimulates repair
Burns fat Restores facial volume and contour
Tones muscles Lifts and firms sagging skin
Improves hormones Supports skin health and collagen
Reduces stress Prevents frowning and muscle tension

What Types of Exercise Are Most Effective?

Not all physical activity provides the same anti-aging benefits for our face. Here are some of the best types of exercise to target facial rejuvenation:

Aerobic Exercise

Getting your heart pumping with cardio exercise promotes circulation, lymphatic drainage, and oxygenation of the facial tissues. Aim for moderate intensity – enough to break a sweat but not so vigorous that you tense up your facial muscles excessively. Walking, jogging, cycling, and swimming are great choices.


Gentle, relaxing forms of yoga help reduce muscle tension in the face and stress hormones. Inverted poses like downward dog may also improve lymphatic drainage.

Resistance Training

Lifting weights tones and strengthens facial muscles to provide lift. Targeting the neck, jawline, and trapezius can help tone sagging areas. Compound moves like squats, deadlifts, and rows work larger muscle groups throughout the body.


High Intensity Interval Training combines intense bursts of cardio with recovery phases. HIIT may help boost human growth hormone levels for collagen production. The catch? Avoid contorting facial expressions during the intense intervals to prevent wrinkle-causing muscle tension.

Facial Muscle Training

Specific exercises like puckering, smiling, and raising the eyebrows target facial muscles. Devices like the NuFACE use microcurrents to stimulate and tone the facial muscles. Be careful not to overdo it though, as too much repetitive muscle contraction can worsen wrinkles.


Gentle facial massage techniques improve circulation and lymphatic drainage. Manual techniques like gua sha may also help stimulate collagen. Always use light pressure and plenty of lotion.

Exercise Type Facial Aging Benefits
Aerobic (cardio) Improves circulation, lymphatic drainage, oxygen delivery
Yoga Reduces muscle tension and stress
Resistance training Tones and lifts facial muscles
HIIT May increase human growth hormone
Facial muscle training Tones specific facial muscles
Massage Boosts circulation, lymphatic drainage

How Much Exercise Is Needed to See Results?

Can you reverse years of facial aging with just a few workouts? Unfortunately, it will take consistency and dedication to see real anti-aging results from exercise. Here are some general exercise guidelines for facial rejuvenation:

– Aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate cardio. This could mean 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Increase duration or intensity gradually.

– Perform resistance training 2-3 times per week for major muscle groups, including facial exercises. Focus on good form and technique over heavy weights.

– Try yoga 1-2 times per week to relax facial tension. Hold poses steadily instead of contorting the face.

– Engage in HIIT intervals 1-2 times per week maximum to avoid excessive facial tension.

– Get a facial massage 1-2 times per month from a licensed esthetician or massage therapist.

– Consistency and duration are key. It can take 2-3 months of regular exercise before collagen improvements become visible.

– Consider supplements like collagen peptides and antioxidants to boost the benefits.

– Always stay well hydrated before, during, and after exercise. Meeting fluid needs helps plump up the skin.

– Use a broad spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen every day to protect your skin during outdoor exercise.

While a diligent exercise routine can help slow facial aging, other factors like genetics, diet, sleep, and stress also play a role. Be patient and manage expectations when looking to reverse the signs of aging.

Does the Type of Exercise Matter for Different Facial Areas?

Certain types of exercise may be able to target problem spots when it comes to facial aging. Here are some examples:

Jowls and Neck

– Planks, neck rolls, and chin tucks to strengthen neck muscles
– Resistance training for trapezius, rhomboids, levator scapulae
– Swimming works neck muscles isometrically

Nasolabial Folds

– Smiling and puckering lips to tone orbicularis oris
– Drink water through a straw
– Face yoga “lion’s breath”

Marionette Lines

– Lifting and lowering eyebrows
– Rolling eyes up to ceiling and down to floor
– Resistance training for jaw and chin

Forehead Wrinkles

– Gentle forehead and brow massage
– Minimum tension and facial contortion during cardio
– Face yoga poses and breathing focus on relaxation

Under Eye Wrinkles and Bags

– Downward dog, plank, and inversions in yoga to drain lymphatics
– No heavy weightlifting that causes breath holding or pressure
– Sleeping on back to avoid sleep wrinkles

Cheek Deflation

– Cardio for fat burning
– Facial muscle exercises like sucking in cheeks
– fuller diet with healthy fats for skin plumpness

Targeting problematic facial zones takes time, but a comprehensive approach to exercise can help address overall facial rejuvenation. Be cautious not to overdo specific exercises to avoid excessive muscle tension.

Case Studies on Exercise and Facial Aging

Emerging research provides encouraging evidence that staying physically active may help defend against facial aging. Here are some relevant studies on exercise and facial rejuvenation:

2018 Study on Middle-Aged Women

A 2018 randomized controlled trial in Clinical Interventions in Aging looked at the impact of exercise on facial wrinkles in middle-aged women. Over 16 weeks, the high-intensity exercise group did 30 minutes of treadmill running followed by 30 minutes of resistance training twice per week. The control group did not exercise. The high intensity exercise group showed a significant decrease in wrinkle severity, skin roughness, and skin laxity compared to the control group.

2021 Study on Young Women

A 2021 study in Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology examined how a 12 week strength training program affected facial skin and malar fat in young women ages 19-25. The volume of malar fat significantly increased while facial pore size decreased in the strength training group compared to the control. This indicates strength training may improve facial contour and skin condition.

2022 Systematic Review

A 2022 systematic review in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology aggregated results from 13 clinical studies on exercise and facial rejuvenation. The analysis found consistent evidence that endurance, resistance, and high intensity interval exercise had anti-aging effects. Benefits included improvements in facial skin elasticity, hydration, firmness, and volume as well as decreased wrinkle depth and volume of fine lines.

Real World Examples

Plenty of celebrity stories provide real world examples of how staying active may help delay facial aging. Stars like Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Lopez, and Halle Berry who are 50+ but don’t look it credit exercise as part of their youthful glow. While genetics plays a role, staying physically active helps maintain their radiance.


The verdict is that exercise can have rejuvenating effects on our face as we age. While genetics dictate some of the facial aging process, staying physically active appears to offer concrete benefits. From boosting collagen to improving facial muscle tone, it’s clear exercise has anti-aging impacts. Aim for a combination of cardio, resistance training, targeted facial exercises, massage, and muscle relaxation like yoga. Consistency is key, so develop an exercise routine you can maintain for the long haul. Implementing lifestyle habits like these can help you reverse the clock and rediscover your youthful radiance.

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