TikTok Debunked: Does Running Cause Premature Aging? We asked an expert

Welcome to TikTok unmaskeda new series in which Yahoo Canada digs into the truth behind popular TikTok health, beauty and food trends.

Two male friends running in public park TikTok

On TikTok, plastic surgeon Dr. Gerald Imber went viral for claiming that long-distance running allegedly causes premature aging. But it’s true? (Photo via Getty Images)

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified physician before engaging in any physical activity or making any changes to your diet, medications or lifestyle.

In the last weeks, Yahoo Canada dived into TikTok’s most extravagant health, beauty and lifestyle trends.

From whitening your teeth with magic gum to drinking chia seed water for weight loss, we’ve had expert support or debunking a variety of claims so you know what’s actually helpful and what to avoid.

This week we’re investigating the “runner’s face”. After a plastic surgeon recently went viral for claiming that running causes aging, TikTokers flared up and wanted to know if that was true.

Read on for everything you need to know about the claim and what a dermatologist has to say about it.

The complaint and how it started

  • On TikTok, plastic surgeon Dr. Gerald Imber went viral for claiming that long-distance running allegedly causes premature aging.

  • The video, which has been liked more than 176,000 times and viewed 3.3 million times, claimed that running gives you a “gaunt old face”.

  • While Imber thinks it’s okay to run a couple miles a week, she urged people to participate in low-impact aerobic exercise instead to prevent premature aging.

Context

  • “Runners face” has been circulating in the aging and fitness world for the last few years.

  • The idea is that long-distance or frequent running can give you a gaunt look and/or saggy jowls due to loss of skin elasticity and facial volume.

  • The TikTok search term “runners face wrinkles” has been viewed over 49 million times, with videos from avid runners and health specialists discussing the trend.

What TikTok users are saying

In the comment section of Imber’s video, many TikTokers split.

Runners or fitness enthusiasts disagreed with Imber, saying they haven’t experienced this phenomenon.

“I’m tired of hearing about antiaging. Can you let me live?” asked one user.

“I know several long distance runners who look very young so I’m wary of this one,” wrote one TikToker.

“I run a lot of miles every week and I honestly think it’s kept me fit and looking good. And I’m almost 60!” shared someone else.

The plastic surgeon believes that running causes the skin to lose elasticity and facial volume.  (Photo via Getty Images)

The plastic surgeon believes that running causes the skin to lose elasticity and facial volume. (Photo via Getty Images)

On the other hand, some users rejoiced at the reason not to tie their sneakers.

“You don’t have to tell me twice Doc!” wrote one fan.

“I’ve definitely heard that. My coach said walking is better than running, but swimming is better,” added another.

“That’s why I don’t run! I avoided wrinkles and messed up knees!” said one TikToker.

An expert intervenes

To get an expert opinion, Yahoo Canada spoke with Dr. Geeta Yadav, board certified dermatologist and founder of FACET Dermatology in Toronto, Ont.

When asked about the “racer’s face”, the specialist was quick to refute the claim.

“Physiologically, I don’t think it’s the running itself that makes faces look thin. I believe it’s the rapid weight loss (which shows up easily on the face) and the excessive sun exposure that is often associated with long-distance running.” and to other endurance sports,” Yadav said.

said Dr. Geeta Yadav

Dr Geeta Yadav said ‘runner’s face’ is more likely caused by sun exposure and rapid weight loss, rather than running itself. (Photo via Getty Images)

Although Yadav has seen the “runners face” in his practice, he said it’s not specific just to runners.

The dermatologist explained that it can happen to anyone who loses weight quickly or doesn’t take care of their skin.

“Besides sun exposure, running is an intensive cardio activity, and cardio helps burn fat… Facial fat not only supports our skin structure, it also makes us look younger. Lose too much facial fat it can improve facial cavities and create a gaunt look,” Yadav said.

“Reports of ‘runner’s face’ tend to be anecdotal, and there isn’t much evidence to suggest that impact sports increase elastic tissue breakdown.”Dr. Geeta Yadav

Additionally, Yadav added that there is little scientific evidence to support Imber’s claim and warns people not to take anything they see online seriously.

“Reports of ‘runner’s face’ tend to be anecdotal and there isn’t much evidence to suggest that impact sports increase the breakdown of elastic tissue,” he said.

Overall, Yadav disagreed that running causes premature aging given his knowledge and experience in the field.

“I find the statement hard to believe knowing the physiology of the skin and seeing how other endurance athletes also develop a similar facial structure as they age,” she said.

Yadav recommended that people wear sunscreen when stepping outdoors and considering the time of day you exercise.  (Photo via Getty Images)

Yadav recommended that people wear sunscreen when they go outdoors and consider the time of day you exercise. (Photo via Getty Images)

Is it debunked?

Although runners experience changes to their face, Yadav wants people to know it’s likely caused by the sun or weight loss and doesn’t always coincide with running.

For this reason, Yahoo Canada he denied this claim.

Luckily, there are ways to protect your skin when you exercise outdoors that can help fight aging, so you don’t have to give up your favorite activities.

“Sunscreen is absolutely essential, as is using an antioxidant serum, which will further help prevent oxidative damage caused by sun exposure and environmental pollution,” said Yadav.

The dermatologist also recommended that you consider the time of day you’re doing your business.

“Early in the morning is a favorite time for runners and cyclists. I think it’s a safe time to exercise and also probably a more tolerable one when it comes to hot summer days,” he added.

Let us know what you think by commenting below and tweeting @Yahoo Style CA! Follow us on Chirping AND Instagram.


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