As with any major life change, you need to think about how it affects your workout routine. Exercising is a central part of many lives and certainly helps relieve stress. After all, the feeling of a healthy and active body is the best in the world! Tattoos do throw a wrench in the plan. A small one, that only affects a few cogs, but a wrench nonetheless. Now that I’ve said that, you might find yourself wondering ‘Can you exercise after getting a tattoo?’ Yes, of course you can! But it comes with very strict requirements that many people aren’t able to meet. If you only exercise to lose weight, then stick to dieting as your tattoo heals. If you exercise to keep your body in shape, then read on!
How Long After Getting a Tattoo Should You Work Out?
You should wait at least six weeks before working out with a tattoo. What’s with the long wait? Unfortunately, tattoos take a long time to heal. During the first two weeks, you can potentially open the wound and prevent healing in the area of your tattoo. Yep, I said wound. Tattoos are akin to deep scrapes or bad sunburns in that they damage the skin and force it to heal. Even if it looks fine, the skin on top of your tattoo will not be adequate enough to protect it from outside elements or excess stretching.
It takes about six weeks for your skin to completely replenish itself—and that time gets longer if you have a large tattoo. The best way is to wait until your tattoo looks a bit faded or gray. This means your tattoo has fully formed scar tissue over it and is safe for everyday activities. The scar tissue goes away with proper skin care and time, leaving you with a brilliant tattoo. If you’re a lucky person who had skin that healed without temporarily discoloring your tattoo, you’ll know your safe for sure at the six week mark if your skin isn’t peeling. If you need to know more about the healing process, read this page that I wrote.
When Can You Go to the Gym After Getting a Tattoo?
How soon can you hit the gym after getting a new tattoo? Even if you have a tattoo that seems ‘safe’ when you work out, a gym still poses trouble. In fact, it’s one of the worst places you can go to while your tattoo heals! Gym equipment is full of sweat, germs, and grime from other people. No amount of sterilization will get it clean. Unless you’re sticking with the treadmill and have a tattoo placed up high on your body, you need to stay out of the gym until your tattoo is fully healed. You should wait at least a month to go to the gym after getting a tattoo.
Working Out with a New Tattoo
Of course, staying in shape is incredibly important. When your body has to maintain its muscled form or you need to keep off the pounds, exercise is basically essential. There are some safe ways to work out after a tattoo. The exercise you do depends on the location of your tattoo and its size, but generally, you’ll find something safe to do in your typical home gym. While your tattoo heals, you might need to step into unfamiliar territory. If you have an arm tattoo, it’s time to give attention to your legs, and vice versa. You could even explore different exercises or get creative with your routine. Use your tattoo healing experience as an opportunity to learn and grow.
Sterilizing Your Workout Zone
Before you begin working out, you have to make sure the entire area is sterile. By working out with your own equipment, you drastically lower the chance of infection. Any bacteria you come in contact with while working out will be familiar to your body and you may even have a resistance to it. Nonetheless, when it comes to open wounds like tattoos, harmful bacteria can still exploit the weakness in your immune system and infect you.
Use an alcohol-based sterilizer or antibacterial soap to scrub clean anything you work out with. Go back over it with a rag of water to get that sticky feel off and prevent soap-resistant bacteria. Only certain lotions and soaps should come into contact with your tattoo, which you can read about in my post on the matter. While you sterilize, make sure not to touch your tattoo. You only want to use special—non-alcohol-based—soap to keep your ink from breaking down. For yoga mats, you may need to submerge it in water to get off excess grime (don’t use too much soap, or the mat becomes slippery).
Your workout clothes will need a little bit of care, since just washing them won’t get out the bacteria or smell if you wait too long. I recommend getting some new, cheaper workout clothes that you won’t mind getting a little dirty. Throw it into the washing machine immediately after you work out to keep it as clean as possible. Learn how to shower off your sweat properly without damaging your tattoo on this page.
Working Out After a Tattoo on the Ribs
The ribs are a pretty solid area. They’re built like a cage and aren’t meant to move too much. Because of that, there are many different exercises you can practice while you have a healing rib cage tattoo. Practice a little bit before you start your workout. If you feel the exercise pull or tug at your tattoo, then it isn’t safe. Some exercises I can think of that would be hazardous to rib tattoos are sit-ups, crunches, lifting weights, and any arm stretches that move your shoulder blades (so…basically…all of them). Light cardio shouldn’t stretch your skin enough to matter. If you find yourself unable to do your main exercises, I recommend doing safe leg stretches and perhaps some squats. Flexibility and strength are correlated, so this at least keeps your body ready for when you do get back into exercising.
Working Out After a Tattoo on the Forearm
When you receive a tattoo on the forearm, weight lifting is strictly off limits. Arm stretches and sports that utilize your arms also need to be tossed out the window—only for as long as your healing process, of course. Cardio activities work well for people with new forearm tattoos. Along with that, squats, leg pressing, and lunges are counted among safe activities while you have forearm tattoos. Even though we use our forearm for most exercises, there is a surprising variety that we can rely on while a forearm tattoo or a sleeve heals. Use this opportunity to explore different types of exercises. Your body will thank you for it, and you could find a new addition to your routine!
Cardio After a Tattoo
Running after a tattoo is the safest form of exercise you can do after a tattoo. The only tattoos affected by this are rib cage tattoos (since you should be swinging your arms close to you while running) and for some larger people the inner thighs. Tattoos on your chest and back should be covered by a clean, skin-tight material. The only thing you need to worry about is sweat! Deal with sweat as you would any other type of moisture on your tattoo. Exercising for prolonged periods of time poses the same risk as extended exposure to water, so be careful that you don’t overdo it. Or, at the very least, keep a clean towel handy to dab sweat off your tattoo as you work.
So, what sort of cardio exercises are available to you? Running or sprinting is the obvious exercise, but elliptical machines also help you stay in shape. Climbing stairs is surprisingly good at building leg muscles and keeping weight off. The only truly off-limit cardio exercise is swimming. Swimming with a new tattoo can have potentially deadly consequences! I write more about that down below, plus I wrote a full article on swimming with a new tattoo here. Although it’s incredibly healthy, exercises your whole body, and is just plain fun, it’s not good for someone with a healing wound…such as a brand new tattoo.
Lifting Weights After a Tattoo
If your new tattoo is on your arm, lifting weights is a big no. Since your entire arm gets exercised while lifting weights, it could potentially open the wound or redistribute the ink in your tattoo. This delays the healing process and might blur your tattoo a bit. You also need to be careful if you combine lifting weights with other exercises or push yourself to the limit. In the first case, many people combine lifting weights with squats—and if that applies to you, you need to switch up your exercises while you heal. You use your abdominal muscles in the latter case, which can cause problems if you twist a bunch or flex.
If you notice that the skin around your tattoo doesn’t stretch during your workout, then your tattoo will weather the exercise just fine. Lower back tattoos are also safe unless you twist your torso while lifting weights (which isn’t very healthy for your back). Sleeves are seriously off limits when you lift weights. If you want to learn more about aftercare and how to treat your tattoo during these crucial times, then check out this page.
Can I Do Yoga After a Tattoo?
Any type of injury interrupts yoga routines. That includes tattoos. Yoga is a full-body exercise that uses as many muscles as possible. It’s one part exhausting, another part painful, and still another part a wonderful massage on the senses. When you get a tattoo and want to practice yoga while it heals, you need to avoid stretching the tattoo by any means possible. Choose yoga exercises that don’t affect your tattooed area.
This is pretty difficult when you have larger tattoos—especially one on your back—but it’s doable. Your routine won’t be as extensive as it was before your tattoo, but you do still have options. Feel free to be creative and invent some of your own sequences. Use common sense to figure out if it’s safe for your tattoo. With yoga, being familiar and caring to your body is a central facet. Exercising your patience goes hand in hand with exercising your muscles through yoga. Once the tattoo has fully healed, you can get back to your normal sequence.
Can I Play Sports After Getting a Tattoo?
Sports are a little more involved when it comes to damaging your healing tattoo. Because sports exercise many parts of your body, fewer options are available to you to exercise. I would wager that a sport like tennis, which mainly requires upper-body strength, would be fine for your ankles. On the other hand, it would be horrible for wrist tattoos, sleeves, and back tattoos. The only sports where I can confidently say a healing tattoo would be safe…are eSports. That narrows things down quite a bit, doesn’t it? However, there is one particular sport I’d like to go over individually, thanks to the popularity of tattoos among its players.
Can I Play Basketball After Getting a Tattoo?
Since your body is on display for everyone while you play basketball, you might as well decorate it with a few tattoos! Unfortunately, basketball is a full-body sport that requires every piece of you to bend and stretch while you play. Your ankles get it while you pivot, your legs and thighs are affected as you dribble, your back and chest are affected when passing or taking shots, and your wrists and arms…well, they’re always at work. Once your tattoo heals, though, basketball poses no risk to your tattoo! Losing weight through basketball is also gradual enough that it will not result in tattoo stretching or distortion. If you are an active basketball player, I recommend grabbing your tattoo during the off season. You can also ask your coach about what time would be best for your new tattoo.
Can I Go Swimming After a Tattoo?
I highly recommend checking out our article on swimming, which explains how to handle water while your tattoo heals. During the healing phase, your tattoo is basically an open wound. Even after it stops oozing, it is still a permeable barrier. Germs and bacteria can easily infect it and lead to the destruction of your tattoo ink—or, in the worst cases, death. No, that’s not an exaggeration. Even in swimming pools, the chlorine poses a risk to your fresh tattoo ink. Swimming is quite possibly the worst thing you could do while your tattoo heals.
Even if you decide to swim in a germ-free, chlorinated pool, it still poses a huge risk to your tattoo. How? The same chemicals that break down germs, pathogens, and life forms in the water also break down your tattoo ink. Once your tattoo ink breaks down, it is washed away or disposed of the same way your body would handle dirt. The design gets bleached, waterlogged, blurry, patchy, or faded when exposed to these cleaning products. The same is true of some anti-bacterial soaps, but the effect is much more dramatic when you have prolonged contact with water. For a list of safe soaps, check out my favorites.
Can You Exercise After Your Tattoo Heals?
Yes, you can exercise after your tattoo heals. After six weeks, your skin should be fully formed on top of your tattoo. It might look a little faded, but that’s just because of the scar tissue that has formed above it. With time, it will clear up and create a vivid tattoo. However, you don’t need to wait that long to hit the gym.
How do you know for sure if your tattoo is healed? For small tattoos, check the state of your skin. Is it peeling? Sensitive? A little red? Maybe a bit scabbed? That means your body is still healing. Even the tiniest of flakes means your body isn’t finished. I recommend reading this if you want to know more about peeling tattoos and why you have to care for them. Anyways, don’t despair—small tattoos usually get to that stage in less than a month.
For larger tattoos, it takes much longer to heal. It’s not even proportionate—your body has limited resources, so if the wound is bigger, it has to split up its white blood cells throughout the wound while also handling even more bacteria. After six weeks, inspect your tattoo. If your tattoo is completely smooth, has no flakes, and isn’t sensitive to the touch, then you’re ready. Otherwise, stay away from exercises that could potentially damage your tattoo.
So, Can You Exercise After Getting a Tattoo?
In general, you cannot exercise after getting a tattoo. Furthermore, you should not exercise after a tattoo. However, that’s just not an option for all of us! People with desk jobs really need to dedicate some time to using their bodies, and that means planning some workouts. People who have a certain routine to keep their life centered could have their whole life thrown out of whack for the entire time their tattoo heals. Even people who want to start living healthy may run into this dilemma while their new tattoo heals. The solution?
If you’re alright with exploring new avenues of exercise that do not affect your tattoo, then you’ll find yourself in a good position for exercise. Find out what works for you and what doesn’t through trial and error. If you don’t have your tattoo yet, consider placing it strategically in a place that doesn’t stretch or sweat much while you work out. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find the perfect new addition to your workout routine. As always, thanks for reading!