Smoking, drinking and leading a sedentary lifestyle are all well-known lifestyle choices that can age a person, but what about heading outside for a daily run or jumping rope? Can certain exercises age a person more quickly? Find out what the experts have to say, plus some ways to modify your workouts below.

Exercises That Age Us

As counter-intuitive as it may sound, all that running, jumping and outdoor cycling you’re doing may be contributing to some signs of aging. Any high-impact exercise could cause a change in your skin, says Michael C. Edwards, MD, FACS, but running in particular can affect how old a person looks. Avid runners may notice stretching of the skin around their cheeks and eyes as well as sagging of the breasts, especially if they do not wear supportive bras, earlier on than women who don’t run.

Done in moderation, these high-impact activities don’t pose as much of a problem, but if taken to the extreme, the weight loss as a result of the activity combined with gravity can take its toll.

“Excessive exercising can cause you to become too thin and loosen skin, especially in middle age,” says Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Harry Glassman, MD. “At some point you need to have at least some fat … if not, you’ll look gaunt and prematurely aged.”

In addition to the activities themselves, prolonged exposure to the elements can age us. Without proper protection, sun exposure can decrease the elasticity of the skin and cause collagen degeneration, according to the website for American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Wind and cold temperatures can also dry the skin and give it an aged appearance. Gravity and genetics also play a role in how much a person ages as a result of exercise.

“Unfortunately, some patients have thinner skin genetically,” Dr. Edwards says. “Think of people you meet who are healthy, exercise a lot and look years younger than their age, compared to those who look older and also exercise a lot. You can’t choose your genetics so it’s best to employ as many preventative measures as you can.”

Ways to Change Your Routine

Although you can’t change your genetics, there are a variety of ways to help maintain a fitness routine while employing strategies to prevent premature aging. They include:

  • Wearing proper exercise wear. Find garments that will protect your arms and legs from harmful UV rays and invest in supportive sports bras that will help prevent your breasts from sagging.
  • Apply sunscreen liberally. While 20 minutes of sun exposure each day is recommended to maintain healthy levels of vitamin D, Dr. Glassman advises staying indoors between 10 am and 2 pm when the sun is at its strongest. Apply sunscreen regularly and liberally to your face, hands, hairline and any exposed extremities before exercising outdoors.
  • Take up swimming… or any aquatic form of exercise. Swimming is a total-body workout that doesn’t subject the body to gravity, Glassman says, and is an ideal exercise for anyone concerned about aging from high-impact activities.
  • Practice overall health. By staying hydrated, avoiding tobacco products and finding an exercise routine you can fit into your schedule, Edwards says.

If you’ve already experienced some signs of aging and are looking into surgical procedures to help remedy the issue, a breast lift can help create a more youthful breast contour, while minimally invasive procedures like an injectables, chemical peels or skin resurfacing can help minimize signs of aging in the face.