Jackie Warner: Exercise With The Skin You're In

Jackie WarnerFor some, exercise is like brushing teeth—a regular part of their day routine. But for people with psoriasis—an autoimmune disease that impacts the skin and restricts range of motion—fitting in just a few jumping jacks into the day can be challenging.

Renowned fitness expert and star of Bravo's Thintervention and Workout Jackie Warner knows firsthand how this often painful and embarrassing condition can impact a person's emotional and physical well-being. "Growing up, my grandparents were very involved in my life. When my grandmother developed psoriasis it completely changed her," Jackie remembers sadly. "She went from a vivacious lady to someone withdrawn, isolated, and sedentary."

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF), psoriasis affects approximately 7.5 million Americans and is the most prevalent autoimmune disease in the country. People with psoriasis have an overactive immune system that causes inflammation and accelerated skin cell growth. The cells can appear anywhere on the body as raised, red patches that may itch and bleed.

"With psoriasis there is a lot of shame," says Jackie who became involved with a unique health and wellness program called Fit in Your Skin  for people living with this chronic condition. One of the pieces of the program is a free 30-minute fitness DVD with workouts specifically geared to people with psoriasis. "I want to give them the tools they need to help them get more physically active which I believe may help improve their overall health and mental well-being."

QualityHealth recently sat down with Jackie to discuss the Fit in Your Skin initiative and to get her tips for living with this often debilitating disease.

Why is exercise important for people with psoriasis?

Psoriasis has been linked to an increased risk of life-threatening diseases such as heart disease, obesity, depression, and high blood pressure. Because of the physical pain and social stigma often associated with psoriasis, it's not uncommon for sufferers to become overweight. Incorporating exercise into your routine lessens those risks, but during flare ups, sufferers may want to avoid exercising in a gym or other public place. One of the advantages of my DVD is that the exercises can be done in the privacy of the home. My goal is to get people exercising in a place where they feel less self-conscious. When you start treating your body better, you have more energy and present yourself with more confidence.

Given the challenges of psoriasis, how can sufferers exercise effectively?

With simple modifications! Some people have psoriasis outbreaks surrounding their joints which can limit their mobility and make exercising painful. Throughout the workout portion of my Fit in Your Skin DVD, I "coach" viewers and give adjustments. For example, if you can't manage a chest press, I demonstrate how to achieve similar results by doing a standing chest fly.

Do you have any advice for novice exercisers?

Yes. It's never too late to make working out part of your routine. I recommend starting with my 30-minute workout at least three times per week. All you need to work out with me is a pair of light weights and sneakers.

Being overweight is a problem for many Americans. Can you share some healthy-eating tips?

As a culture, when we feel badly about ourselves we tend to eat high-sugar foods for comfort. It's called emotional eating and it's definitely a factor for many people dealing with psoriasis. Though medical researchers have yet to prove a link between certain foods and psoriasis flares, some foods have been shown to increase inflammation in people with the condition.

I'm a huge organic person and believe that everyone should be eating a healthy, whole diet that is natural and comes mainly from the earth. It's great for weight loss, which means it's also good for people living with psoriasis who want to lose weight and incorporate nutritious meals into their diet plans.. Good foods for people with inflammatory conditions include lean cuts of meat such as poultry and fish like salmon and tuna. Foods that are low in sugar are good options as well as dark, nutty breads. Citrus, berries, and brightly-colored veggies like peppers and carrots contain fiber and are high in antioxidants. I also recommend drinking almond or soy milk instead of dairy.

If you notice a connection between certain foods and your psoriasis, ask your doctor whether you can safely eliminate them from your diet in order to assess any changes in your condition.

What are some healthy snacks?

Nuts are a delicious, wholesome, and are a good source of protein. I especially love almonds and snack on them throughout the day. Walnuts are tasty too. Apples and other fruits are also good choices because they provide fiber. To lose weight, women should increase the amount they exercise and stick to a 1,500 calorie per day diet (400 calories for each of the three main meals plus two 150 calorie snacks during the day). For men, the caloric intake can be slightly higher—1,800 calories.

What surprises non-sufferers most about psoriasis?

Psoriasis is widely misunderstood. It is a serious condition but it is NOT contagious. It's very sad but people living with the disease are often subjected to prejudice and discrimination, especially in public places such as retail stores, hair salons, and swimming pools.

Any final thoughts?

Fit in Your Skin is a great way for sufferers to get started on the road to better health and mental well-being. Exercise can change your shape and make you feel more confident. With more confidence, I hope sufferers will be interested in expanding their fitness repertoire by trying my other DVDs, reading my book, or applying what they've learned at the gym. Another one of my goals is to get them socializing again! Varying your exercise routine is key to keeping you motivated and moving!


Interview with Jackie Warner and Paul Yamauchi, MD, a dermatologist in private practice and the medical director of the Dermatology Institute and Skin Care Center of Santa Monica.