Most tattoo artists recommend total constraint from strenuous workouts before a tattoo is healed completely. But, understandably, many gym enthusiasts often struggle to oblige with that recommendation.
But, is it okay to exercise immediately after getting a tattoo? Please read on to get the answer to this question and to understand how you should readjust your workout plans in order to keep your tattoo bright, clear, and beautiful.
When should I resume exercising after getting a tattoo?
The short answer: Don’t exercise for at least two days after getting the tattoo. If you must, work out a few hours before your tattooing session so that you can get through the 48 no-workout hours without feeling the eagerness to hit the gym. Note that exercising too soon can get the tattoo dirty and contaminated, plus you don’t want to remove the bandages before the recommended 24 hours.
The long answer: There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. However, there are several factors that should determine when you will resume normal exercising. Some of them include:
The tattoo location
If your preferred workouts involve pulling and moving the tattooed area, it is imperative that you wait until it’s fully healed before working out. That could be two weeks, a month, or even several months.
If your elbow is tattooed, for example, exercises such as running and pushups should be off the table until the elbow joint is healed. If your forearm is tattooed, working out the legs the following day would be fine.
Note: On top of prolonging the healing process, moving, and pulling the tattooed area can result in lost color and a disfigured tattoo.
Some exercises are too strenuous for a new tattoo, others are not. Weight lifting, for example, moves literally every muscle on your body, meaning that your new ink wouldn’t be safe regardless of its location. Aerobics, on the other hand, causes heavy sweating for many people and because it is a fun-filled activity, you can easily overdo it and forget to protect the tattoo against the free-flowing sweat.
Conditions under which you exercise
If you exercise in a personal gym, you can resume earlier than someone who goes to a public gym. If you go to an upscale, members-only gym, you can resume earlier than someone who exercises in a dirty, high-traffic gym. It all boils down to how hygienic your workout environment is.
How to protect your new tattoo when working out
You need to be careful when working out in order to avoid the highly probable risks of over-stretching and subjecting it to bacteria. Getting in contact with other people’s body fluids, for example, can cause infections in your new tattoo and, as a result, derail your healing process. The ink, on the other hand, will take plenty of time to set in well with your skin, so you wouldn’t want to interfere with it before that happens. Please keep reading to understand what you should or shouldn’t do when exercising with a new tattoo.
Wearing tight clothing
Your running tights or yoga pants, no matter how stretchy they could be, can cause you problems if they are too tight around your new tattoo. For about three weeks, therefore, you should avoid wearing tight clothing or any other clothing that might rub against or irritate the tattoo. While at it, avoid wearing clothes that expose your tattoos to the sun, especially if you love running or jogging past midday when the sun is hottest. Too much heat can cause your tattoo to peel and itch.
Swimming exercises and excessive sweating
Swimmers leave their sweat, urine, feces, body oils, spits and many other body excretions in water after swimming. These excretions may contain bacteria that can infect your tattoo. And even if the pool water is treated, the cleaning chemicals aren’t any better. If you swim in natural water bodies such as lakes and rivers, watch out for algae build up as it can react severely with the skin around your tattoo.
Besides causing infections, swimming or taking part in activities that over-moisturize your tattoo can cause the ink to break down, leak out, and fade away. If you know your body sweats excessively after certain workouts, it is advisable that you avoid them for a couple of weeks and when you eventually resume, be sure to wear moisture-wicking clothing in order to keep sweat away from your new ink. Using a towel to wipe out sweat would also be a great idea.
Picking off any scabs
Of course, the dead skin and scabby layer within and around your tattoo will soon start peeling off. When exercising intensely, your clothes might pick off scabs from the tattoo, causing itchiness and irritation. If the itchiness gets out of hand, you will find yourself scratching the tattoo instinctively. That would mean more scabs coming off and, consequently, exacerbating the risk of fading.
Getting in contact with anything or anyone
This goes without saying: Gym equipment, walls, and benches, and are all bacteria-ridden due to excess sweating. Don’t let any gym equipment or even your gym mates come in contact with your tattooed area as that can cause serious bacterial infections. Also, you should wash your hands immediately after working out, in case you end up touching the tattoo subconsciously.
If you play soccer, football, rugby, or any other game that requires you to keep knocking any of your body parts against objects or other people, you may have to take a short sabbatical from the game after getting your tattoo. These games are also notorious in over-stretching the skin and precipitating unimaginable pain.
Performance enhancing drugs
Without delving into the sense and the nonsense of using steroids, it is common knowledge that these drugs are claimed to cause extreme muscle growth over a short period of time. If you like using them, maybe you should consider pausing for a while to allow your tattoo to heal. Gaining too much muscle within an unreasonably short time- mostly through unnatural means- is likely to cause immature stretching and unnecessary distortion of fine lines within and around your tattoo.
- Before hitting the gym, be sure to apply a reasonably thin layer of tattoo ointment/lotion on the tattooed area in order to keep it from overstretching.
- Wipe the gym walls and benches that you are likely to get in contact with and then spray them with antibiotics in order to keep possible bacterial infections at bay.
We understand that you are eager to get back to your normal workouts, but we must insist that you allow your new tattoo to heal without subjecting it to unnecessary pressure. You only need a month or less to heal, but without being patient, you may end up jeopardizing the healing process and fading the ink. At the end of the day, nothing beats the feeling of ending up with a bright and clear tattoo upon healing.