If you’ve ever had to stop yourself mid-workout to address your itchy skin, you aren’t alone. This sensation is very common, but it’s also a sign that you might not be working out enough. When you feel itchy during a workout, it’s due to capillaries (very tiny blood cells near the surface of the skin) expanding as your circulation ramps up. As the capillaries expand, they trigger a nerve response, which the brain reads as an itching sensation. Often, the itching will be concentrated in the area of your body working hardest. For example, your arms may itch when you’re doing bicep curls, or your legs may itch during a run.
What You Can Do
Fortunately, itching when you work out isn’t a permanent problem. The more you exercise, the more your body will adjust to the strange sensation. So, making exercise a more regular habit can help keep the process more comfortable. It can also help to ramp up your workout routine gradually, so that you aren’t jumping right back into strenuous exercise after a long hiatus.
When to Worry
If itching tends to be a more persistent problem while working out, it may come from another source. For example, fungal and yeast infections and other skin irritations can become aggravated by sweat and heat, causing itchiness. If itching is accompanied by wheezing, tightness in your chest, lightheadedness, and other allergy-like symptoms, then the cause may be cholinergic urticaria, or exercise-induced hives. With this condition, it is important to work with your doctor to identify the best strategies for exercising safely and comfortably.