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Why Does My Fat Itch When I Exercise

I recently overheard someone in the gym ask why her fat itches when she exercises. Feeling an itching sensation while exercising is not unusual. It typically resolves after the workout session is over. But it can make exercising stressful and annoying. This sensation is called runner’s itch.

Fat itches when exercising because the heart pumps more blood than usual to the muscles you’re working. Millions of capillaries and arteries are being filled up and expanded to accommodate the increased blood flow, therefore, pressing on the neighboring nerve cells. Signals are sent to the brain via these nerve cells, interpreting them as an itch.

There are several reasons that could cause this annoying sensation may occur. But it is not a cause for major concern. Prevention and treatment are simple, and you should be rid of the irritating sensation in no time. 

Reasons Why My Fat Itches When Exercising

Increased Blood Flow To Muscles

A sudden transition to exercising can lead to itchy sensations if you’ve led a sedentary lifestyle. Exercise increases your heart rate and blood flow, sending more oxygen and blood to the muscles in use. 

This causes your blood vessels to expand and stimulate the nerves nearby. Due to inactivity, the nerve carries signals to the brain which then translates it as fat itching.

Histamine Release

Histamine is a local vasodilator usually released in association with an allergic reaction. This could present as itching and inflammation. However, according to a 2017 research review, researchers say that exercise may stimulate histamine release to prevent fatigue.

Histamine causes your blood vessels to dilate, which sends the sensation of your fat itching when exercising to your brain. An increase in histamine production leads to the general feeling of itchiness.

Skin Sensitivity

Having sensitive skin can make you prone to itchy fat when active. Allergens such as clothing materials, some soaps and softeners used when cleaning laundry can cause irritation. Sweating when your skin is dry can also aggravate the sensation.

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Exercise-Induced Urticaria

Exercise-induced urticaria is a condition that arises when you suffer from itchiness in conjunction with redness of the skin or hives brought about by exercise. Arduous exercises such as hiking or running tend to exacerbate this condition. Sometimes exercise-induced urticaria may be misdiagnosed as a severe form of runner’s itch because they occur during or after exercise.

Symptoms of exercise-induced urticaria include hives, skin itchiness, skin redness, breathing difficulties, stomach cramps, headaches, swelling of the face, etc. Exercise-induced urticaria cannot be avoided, and you may have to give up exercising altogether. Your doctor can help you identify food, products, or exercises that trigger it. 

Antihistamines can be used to treat some symptoms. In severe cases, a drug called epinephrine (commonly called EpiPen) may be prescribed by your doctor.

Will My Itchy Fat Go Away?

Although having itchy fat when exercising can be uncomfortable and maybe even annoying, it is not a cause for much concern. Typically, it may appear on the legs and stomach as itching or allergic reactions. Still, it can show up on any part of the body. This itchy sensation tends to be more common in amateurs with typical sedentary lifestyles or people who exercise after a long break.

You need to pace yourself and take intermittent breaks while exercising. Stop the workout as soon as you feel your symptoms begin. Runner’s itch is typically harmless and resolves on its own with time.

However, it’s advisable to speak to your doctor if you have severe fat itching that doesn’t go away. Or if the itching is shared by other symptoms like difficulty breathing, lightheadedness, or dizziness. This could be a more severe illness known as exercise-induced urticaria.

Home Remedies To Relieve Fat Itchiness

To relieve itchiness in the legs and other parts of the body. You can test these simple home remedies.

  • Enhance leg circulation with the use of compression stockings and by elevating the legs a few times daily for 15 minutes at a time. 
  • Apply cooling substances such as a cold compress, aloe vera gel, or hydrocortisone cream to the itchy area.
  • Take warm baths with oatmeal, Epsom salts, or baking soda after exercise.
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How To Prevent Fat From Itching During Exercise

The best way to prevent itchy fat when active is to develop a consistent exercise routine starting with low intensity. Regular exercise increases blood volume flowing through your blood vessels. Over time your brain becomes accustomed to the signals sent by the nerves and starts to ignore them.

As your body gets accustomed to exercising regularly, the itching subsides and then stops altogether. Also, avoid taking long breaks from exercising as the itching may return after a long hiatus.

You can try taking an antihistamine before exercising to counteract the effect of histamine production. Avoid certain foods that may trigger your allergies or contribute to itchiness. 

People with sensitive skin need to use laundry detergents intended for those with sensitive skin. Workout clothing made of moisture-absorbing fabrics should be worn to limit sweat on the skin. People with very dry skin should apply moisturizer before exercising.  

Steer clear of the sun and limit exercise at the coolest times of the day. Take showers with cool or warm water instead of hot water that may dry out your skin and cause irritation.

Conclusion

It is not a fun experience when your fat itches when exercising. Still, it is just a mild occurrence and nothing to worry about. You can prevent itchy fat by exercising regularly, avoiding allergens, and taking antihistamines before exercising. If you feel your symptoms are more serious and the treatments you’ve tried aren’t working, it’s best to contact your doctor.

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