Are you inked? As many as 36% of Americans between 18 and 29 have a tattoo. Many of those people have many more than one. Do you work out? Going to the gym is not the only place to work out of course, but the United States’ 39,700 gyms hosted over 6,000,000,000 workouts in 2019.
It’s a slam dunk that there is a lot of overlap between newly inked Americans and Americans who work out. That begs the question: Can you workout after getting a tattoo?
For at least 48 hours after a new tattoo, you should not work out. Your new tattoo is an open wound that is an easy entry point for serious infection. Vigorous exercise will prolong the healing process by stretching the skin and exposing it to friction and sweat. You don’t need to be completely inactive.
The good advice not to work out for at least 48 hours after a new tattoo doesn’t mean you need to be completely still. Find out what kind of exercise is appropriate and when, and how to work out safely with your new ink,
You’ve got a new tattoo? Why do you need to wait before working out?
There are five reasons you need to wait to work out after getting a new tattoo: infection, stretching and twisting, friction, sun, and chemicals. They all boil down to this: your body needs time to heal without getting an infection. In addition to that, working out too soon can distort your new tattoo placement.
A tattoo needle punctures your body up to 3,000 times per minute. If your tattoo artist takes four hours to give you your new ink, that’s 720,000 puncture wounds on your flesh.
One of the easiest ways for bacteria to enter your skin is through an open wound. Equipment at gyms and even at home may house lots of bacteria that, in your body, can cause serious infection.
Even if you were working out after tattooing in the most sterile environment possible, you shouldn’t. As you exercise, your muscles and skin stretch, contract, and contort.
That’s one of things you love about it, but that’s not a good setting for healing. Stretching and twisting the skin at the site of your tattoo — not to mention the salt-laden sweat you’ll produce — can slow down healing and keep you out of action even longer.
When trying to heal, friction is not your friend. Infection risk, twisting, stretching, and sweating aside, workouts will expose your new tattoo and punctured skin to friction against equipment or clothing.
Friction can prevent your tattoo from healing properly, rub off scabs and lead to scarring, and irritate already-wounded skin.
Your skin is already vulnerable to sun and chemicals, but tattoos increase that vulnerability. Outdoor workouts are not a safe alternative for working out with a new tattoo.
The risks relating to stretching, twisting, and friction are still present, and your tattooed skin will be more sensitive than usual to the sunlight. For the same reason, swimming is off limits with a new tattoo, too.
In pools, your tattooed skin will be irritated by the chemicals to the point of possible infection. In lakes or oceans, bacteria will find their way into your body through those needle punctures.
As a general rule, wet tattoos don’t heal as well as dry tattoos. For at least one tattoo artist, this means you should not swim, sauna, soak, or sweat, basically avoid physical activity for six weeks after getting a new tattoo.
How long do you need to wait?
There’s a short answer and a long answer. Wait at least 48 hours before working out. But that does not mean that your tattoo will be healed in 48 hours.
It won’t. It can take a month or more for that healing process to be finished. If 48 hours is the bottom end of your forced break from working out.
The length of time you should abstain from working out will depend on:
- Location of your new tattoo
- How intensely you work out
- Where you work out
Where’s your tattoo?
Before exercising the area of your body where the new tattoo is located, wait until it’s fully healed. If you got a tattoo on your bicep, bicep curls are out for several weeks until healing is complete.
That doesn’t mean your whole body is off limits, though. After a 48 hour period has passed, you can take your newly tattooed bicep to the gym (see the comment about location below) to work out your legs, for example.
How hard are you going to work out?
Can you sweat after a tattoo? After the first 48 hours, low intensity exercise that does not affect the tattooed body parts directly and is in an appropriate location may be safe. What’s safe?
It’s easier to say what is not low intensity exercise that may be safe. Can you lift weights after getting a tattoo? When you lift weights, you exert strain on just about every muscle group in your body.
Weight lifting will not be safe until your tattoo is fully healed. Can you perform cardiovascular exercise like aerobics without sweating? No. That’s not safe until your tattoo is fully healed.
Where will you exercise?
After 48 hours — are you noticing that theme? — you may be able to return to specific exercises at low intensity while your tattoo is still healing if you can do so in sanitary conditions otherwise you should avoid exercises and exercising.
In a controlled environment at home that you know is clean and cleaned after every use, you may be able to work out earlier.
If working out means going to a public gym filled with strangers with questionable equipment-cleaning discipline, don’t go until you’re fully healed.
When you’re ready to work out again, how can you protect your tattoo?
Can you do yoga after a new tattoo? Tight clothing — such as yoga pants or spandex — should not be worn over the area of a new tattoo for three weeks. After a 48 hour period of no exercise, yoga may be an option for returning to working out, but keep in mind the body part, intensity and location factors.
Clothing that may leave your tattoo exposed to the sun — shorts or strappy shirts depending on where your tattoo is located — should be avoided during the hottest and brightest parts of the day
When you do start working out again, wear moisture-wicking clothing around the area of your tattoo as much as possible to keep sweat away.
Don’t rub your newly tattooed area against any equipment or working out partners until it is fully healed
Will my tattoos stretch if I gain muscle? Hold off on using any substances that will quickly increase your muscle mass in a shorter than usual time to avoid stretching and distorting your tattoo before it is fully healed
Place a light layer of tattoo ointment on your new tattoo to protect it. Ask your tattoo artist what they recommend.
You always wipe down your workout gear and machines after you work out. Wipe it down before you work out, too. It’s smart all the time, but especially with a new tattoo.
Final Thoughts on Can You Workout After Getting a Tattoo
Definitely tattoos have become a social norm in todays world and people are getting them done more and more often in places that are going to need some TLC to heal correct.
I still have yet to figure out what I would like to have for a tattoo which is why it has taken me forever to get one, though I will hate to avoid causing issues to the area, I will take it as it will look much better for longer by taking care properly.
The only way to be as safe as possible and workout sooner then you need home workout gear and I would say with the pandemic and other issues gaining access through building your home gym may be the right move!
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