Can You Work Out After Getting a Tattoo?

Can You Work Out After A New Tattoo?
Credit: Sarah Harvey

Regular exercise is shown to boost energy and improve mental health and overall cognitive abilities, but after tattooing, many artists warn their clients to steer clear of the gym. If you’re used to frequent workouts, avoiding physical activity altogether during the two to four weeks it takes for a tattoo to completely heal is probably going to be difficult. You might be wondering what the big deal is—is it true that you can’t exercise after a new tattoo? And if so, why?

The short answer is that to ensure your ink heals as well as possible, you should avoid any unnecessary trauma to the newly tattooed area. The long answer is slightly more complicated. You can work out after getting a new tattoo, but you need to be careful about where you work out, what specific exercises you include in your routine, and how you take care of your skin afterwards.

Public gyms are full of bacteria that could harm your healing ink

A fresh tattoo is an open wound that, like any other, risks becoming infected if not properly taken care of or exposed to an onslaught of dirt and germs. That said, most of the artists in the ‘Ask a Professional Tattoo Artist‘ group on Facebook are in favor of physical activity while healing as long as you’re careful about how and where you work out. In a post, Quentin Killian, one of the group’s administrators and a tattoo artist of 14 years based in Montana, advises against using public gyms after getting tattooed because they’re full of bacteria (a 2017 study found that some gym equipment harbors more germs than a toilet seat).

Can you work out after getting a tattoo? You definitely can, just be weary of public gyms.

Light workouts are okay after 24-48 hours, but some exercises should be avoided entirely

I recently got a new shoulder tattoo and worked out just shy of 24 hours later. Most of the tattooers I’ve received pieces from in the past have warned me not to exercise until my tattoo was fully healed, but this time—probably because I was in the middle of writing this article and had just spoken to Dr. Hooman Khorasani, Chief of the Division of Dermatologic and Cosmetic Surgery at Mount Sinai Health System, who assured me that “most people can resume exercising 24 hours after receiving a tattoo”—I went to my regularly scheduled spin class. This was much to the surprise of the two friends I spin with, who are also tattooed and have been warned by their artists to avoid exercise at all costs—which goes to show the amount of variation in opinion on the subject: Can You Work Out After Getting a Tattoo?

While Dr. Khorasani says next day exercise is a-okay for someone sporting a new tattoo—he explains that “the skin is still raw [during the first 24 hours so] it’s best to rest so that the body may initiate the critical wound healing process”—he does highlight, however, that “one should avoid any exercises that will pull or stretch the tattooed skin and contact sports that may bruise the healing area,” because these kinds of activities can potentially ruin the design.

Toronto-based tattooer Scott Borkowski, better known as Sleestak, on the other hand, advises clients to wait a little longer before exercising if possible. “Normally, I suggest you skip your workout for the first three days of healing,” he says, and when you do work out, “avoid putting pressure on or rubbing the area directly with whatever exercise you are doing. Do your best to avoid irritating the tattoo.” If it’s impossible to avoid physical exertion though (if it’s part of your job, for instance), he recommends keeping the area dry and showering as soon as possible when you’re done.

Sweat doesn’t impede your body’s ability to heal and, in fact, might help it

Sweating won’t stop a new tattoo from healing and some studies suggest it might even help the wound heal faster because certain sweat glands—which are found all over the body—are shown to promote re-epithelialization (the regrowth of tissue) in humans through the production of keratinocyte (the cells that make up the majority of the epidermis). Still, while sweating can be beneficial to healing it can also be harmful, according to Dr. Khorasani. He notes that sweat and friction can wash away protective creams and ointments that should be applied to a new tattoo, making proper aftercare even more important if you’re planning to exercise, especially during the first week when “care of the skin is critical to optimize the aesthetic outcome” of your tattoo.

You should always heed your individual artist’s instructions when it comes to aftercare but Sleestak recommends that, in addition to pat drying your ink throughout your exercise routine, you should “shower after your workout, rinsing and gently cleaning the area with soap, [then] pat the tattoo dry immediately after you shower and leave it be.”

Can you work out after getting a tattoo is a common question, read a similar post on a health and aftercare in the link below.

Related: 4 Brilliant Ways to Heal a Tattoo Faster

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