Focus On Fitness

You’ve made a commitment to getting regular exercise and that’s good news for your overall health, as well as your weight-loss goals.


Whether you’re launching a new workout program or already making exercise a part of your daily routine, you know that taking the time to warm up, and to gradually increase your workout time and intensity will help reduce your risk of getting injured. But you may not have considered other workout issues, like chafing, that can make exercise downright painful! Chafing occurs when your skin rubs repeatedly against something else—like fabric, a seam, or nearby skin—and becomes irritated in the process. Minor chafing may cause reddened, tender skin. In the worst cases, your skin may bleed or swell. Sometimes you’ll notice chafing while you’re exercising. At other times, however, you may not even feel damage until you step in the shower and realize you’ve rubbed your skin raw.

Where you may chafe will depend on your body, what you wear and the type of activity you do. Common chafing spots include: the inner thighs; under the arms; around the bands of sports bras, or workout tights or shorts; and the ankles.

Dress Smart

Clothing is often the prime chafing culprit. Choose clothes that fit snugly, without a lot of excess material—extra fabric can rub against your skin, causing irritation. Your workout gear should fit close to your skin without being too tight—that can cause chafing as well. (Any piece of clothing that digs into your skin is too tight.) After you’ve checked for proper fit, double-check the clothes you wear next to your skin (like tank tops, sports bras and exercise shorts) to make sure they don’t have seams that may rub against you. Fabrics that “wick” sweat away from your skin (like spandex and other polyester blends) may be more comfortable than heavier fabrics that may get weighed down with sweat.

Do A Trial

That shirt that seemed to fit perfectly when you first put it on may feel uncomfortably tight after a long fitness walk, especially when you’re swinging your arms. Try out new gear or clothes for a short period—say 5–10 minutes—before wearing it for a longer workout. Do the same activity—bicycling or some dance steps, for example—to see how the clothes feel during exercise.

Minimizing Rubbing

That shirt that seemed to fit perfectly when you first put it on may feel uncomfortably tight after a long fitness walk, especially when you’re swinging your arms. Try out new gear or clothes for a short period—say 5–10 minutes—before wearing it for a longer workout. Do the same activity—bicycling or some dance steps, for example—to see how the clothes feel during exercise.

Add a Layer

Use anti-chafing balms or petroleum jelly on areas where irritation may occur, so your skin is coated with a protective layer. Or try powder or cornstarch, which reduces friction. Experiment with different options to find the one that works best for you, and reapply if necessary during longer workouts.

Drink Plenty of Water

Use anti-chafing balms or petroleum jelly on areas where irritation may occur, so your skin is coated with a protective layer. Or try powder or cornstarch, which reduces friction. Experiment with different options to find the one that works best for you, and reapply if necessary during longer workouts.

Treat Chafing Immediately

Finally, if you do experience chafing, wash the chafed area gently with water (no soap), and pat it dry after exercise. Apply petroleum jelly and a loose bandage to protect your skin while it heals—and avoid activity that irritates it in the meantime. If the chafed area doesn’t heal, or remains swollen, or bleeds or oozes, see your doctor or healthcare provider. If the area becomes infected, you may need an antibiotic ointment or cream to treat it.