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Exercise After Ink: Can You Workout After Getting a Tattoo & How to Do It Safely

Before you hit the gym post-inking, there are a few crucial things to consider.

There’s a delicate healing process involved. The fusion of fitness and tattoos requires careful navigation. This blog post is your compass, guiding you on how to keep your workouts safe and your tattoos looking top-notch! So, can you work out after getting a tattoo? Read on to find out.

Key Takeaways

  • New tattoos need time to heal properly before you resume exercise; treat them like open wounds to avoid infection and ensure they heal well.
  • Light activities like walking, cycling, and strength training avoiding the tattooed area are okay after 48-72 hours, but avoid contact sports, swimming, and sun exposure until the tattoo has fully healed.
  • When exercising with a new tattoo, wear loose clothing, practice good gym hygiene, and follow your tattoo artist’s aftercare instructions to prevent infection and damage to the tattoo.

The Importance of Tattoo Healing

Imagine taking a leisurely stroll, then suddenly tripping and scraping your knee. Ouch, right? That scrape is an open wound, and your body immediately gets to work healing it. Now, think of getting a tattoo. It’s pretty much the same thing, only the ‘scrape’ is voluntary, and it leaves you with some cool ink on your skin.

Most tattoo artists will equate a new tattoo to an open wound. This means it requires the same, if not more, care to prevent infection and ensure proper healing. Before you don your workout gear and grab those dumbbells, we’ll examine the healing process of a healing tattoo.

The Stages of Tattoo Healing

As you leave the tattoo session, you might notice some common aftercare symptoms, such as:

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Oozing
  • Itching

It’s all completely normal, a sign that your body has kicked off the healing process. Think of it as your body’s way of saying, “Hey, I’ve got this!”

Once this phase is over, you can expect some itching and peeling. It’s like your body’s own art restoration project, meticulously working to make a masterpiece of your new ink. During this week of healing, stick to your tattoo artist’s aftercare instructions like a mantra, and remember, no picking at the tattoo!

Factors Affecting Tattoo Healing

The rate and manner of tattoo healing can depend on several factors. Your skin type, for instance, can influence how your tattoo heals. Oily skin might cause the tattoo to fade faster due to a high turnover of skin cells, while dry skin might crack and affect the brightness of your tattoo.

The factors that can affect how quickly a tattoo heals include:

  • The size of your tattoo. Larger tattoos or ones near joints might take longer to heal.
  • The color of your tattoo. Colored tattoos usually take longer to heal than black and grey ones.
  • Your age. It takes longer for older skin to heal.

Can You Workout After Getting a Tattoo?

While a good sweat session might seem harmless, it can potentially interfere with your tattoo’s healing process.

Exercising with a fresh tattoo can increase the risk of infection and mess up your tattoo. Sweat can seep into your fresh tattoo, causing it to swell and possibly leading to an infection. We’ll explore the risks and determine when it’s safe to resume physical activity.

Risks of Exercising with a Fresh Tattoo

So, what happens when you combine a fresh tattoo and an intense workout? You risk infection, stretching the skin, and rubbing – all of which can slow down the healing process and even alter your tattoo’s appearance. Remember, your tattoo is essentially an open wound, and that sweaty gym environment is a breeding ground for germs and bacteria.

Friction from workout gear can irritate the tattoo, making it peel faster and prolonging the healing process. Imagine doing pull-ups with a fresh upper body tattoo, or squats with a new thigh tattoo. The constant rubbing can disrupt the ink and distort your tattoo. Plus, stretching the skin during a workout can interfere with the healing process and cause the ink to come off.

When to Resume Exercise

It’s generally recommended to wait 48-72 hours after getting a tattoo before resuming exercise. This waiting period allows the initial inflammation to subside and the healing process to kick off. However, this time frame can vary based on the size and placement of your tattoo.

Always remember, it’s better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your body and your ink.

Safe Workouts for New Tattoos

So, you’ve waited the recommended 48-72 hours, and now you’re ready to get back to your workout routine. Before you resume your usual regimen, we’ll discuss workouts that are safe for your new tattoo.

Low-intensity cardio exercises, strength training that doesn’t involve the tattooed area, and gentle flexibility and balance exercises are all safe options. These types of workouts minimise sweating and stretching of the tattooed skin, reducing the risk of infection and damage to the tattoo.

Cardio Exercises

Person walking on a treadmill after getting a tattoo

When it comes to cardio, think ‘low intensity’. Easy cycling or a relaxed walk are great options. These activities don’t cause excessive sweating or friction on the tattooed area, making them safe choices within 24 hours after getting a tattoo.

However, as with all things tattoo-related, there are some precautions to take. Here are some tips to keep in mind when working out with a new tattoo:

  • Avoid wearing anything tight over the new tattoo
  • Be mindful of any gym equipment that might rub against it
  • If you’re working out in public, cover your tattoo to prevent exposure to other people’s sweat and germs.

Strength Training

When it comes to strength training, the key is to steer clear of the tattooed area. For instance, if you’ve got fresh ink on your arm, focus on lower body exercises for a few days. This allows you to maintain your fitness routine without interfering with your tattoo’s healing process.

Remember, your skin needs time to heal properly, so it’s best to hold off on intense workouts until your tattoo is fully healed. And when you do get back into your usual routine, ease into it. Don’t try to make up for lost time by going harder or faster.

Flexibility and Balance

Illustration of a person doing gentle stretching after getting a tattoo

Gentle flexibility and balance exercises, such as yoga and stretching, are also safe for new tattoos. These kinds of exercises don’t involve vigorous movement, making them a safe choice within 24 hours of getting inked.

However, as always, there are considerations to keep in mind. Don’t stretch the tattooed skin too much, as this can interfere with the healing process. And if you’re attending a hot yoga class, bring your own mat or towel to minimize exposure to bacteria.

Workouts to Avoid with a New Tattoo

Now that we’ve covered safe workouts, let’s explore the flip side – workouts to avoid. While you might be eager to get back to your usual fitness routine, there are certain activities that you should avoid to ensure your tattoo heals correctly.

Contact sports, swimming and water activities, and sun-exposed outdoor activities are all on the ‘no-go’ list as they involve strenuous physical activity. We’ll explore further why these workouts pose risks for those with fresh tattoos.

Contact Sports

Contact sports pose a risk due to the physical impact and the potential for skin stretching. Sports like soccer, rugby, or wrestling involve physical contact that could cause trauma to the tattooed area, leading to complications in healing and potential damage to the tattoo.

Furthermore, skin stretching during these activities can irritate the tattooed area, rub off scabs prematurely, and interfere with the tattoo’s proper healing. So, while you might be itching to get back on the field, it’s best to wait until your tattoo is fully healed.

Swimming and Water Activities

Person swimming in a pool

The idea of a cool dip in the pool or a beach day might sound tempting, but it’s a no-go for at least two weeks after getting a tattoo. Water, especially in public swimming pools or open water bodies, contains bacteria that could cause infection.

Besides, water can cause the tattoo to soak, which can lead to ink breakdown. It’s best to avoid swimming and water activities until your tattoo has fully healed. So, for now, let’s swap those swimming laps with an easy walk or a gentle yoga session.

Sun-Exposed Outdoor Activities

Illustration of a person doing outdoor activities

Sun-exposed activities should also be avoided for at least four weeks after getting a tattoo. You might be surprised to learn that sunlight can be a tattoo’s worst enemy. Direct exposure to the sun can cause your tattoo to fade or bleach.

If your fitness routine includes outdoor workouts, try to schedule them in the early morning or late evening when the sun is less intense. Remember, taking care of your tattoo is crucial to ensure it heals properly and looks its best.

Tips for Exercising Safely with a New Tattoo

Person wiping down gym equipment

Armed with all this knowledge, you’re well on your way to safely maintaining your fitness routine while your new tattoo heals. Before we conclude, here are a few additional tips that can facilitate a smoother healing process and help maintain your tattoo’s optimal condition.

From proper tattoo aftercare to the right clothing choices and maintaining good gym hygiene, here are some tips to keep in mind when working out with a new tattoo.

Proper Aftercare

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, is proper aftercare.

Following your tattoo artist’s tattoo aftercare instructions is crucial to a smooth healing process. This includes gently washing your tattoo with warm water and mild soap, and applying a fragrance-free moisturizer.

Remember, your tattoo is essentially an open wound, and just like any wound, it needs to be kept clean to prevent infection. So, whether you’re hitting the gym or taking a rest day, keep up with your tattoo aftercare routine.

Clothing Choices

When it comes to what to wear while working out with a new tattoo, the general rule is to go for loose, breathable clothing. Tight clothing can cause friction and irritate the tattooed area. Choose fabrics like cotton, which are not only comfortable but also allow your skin to breathe.

Also, remember to wash your workout clothes in fragrance-free detergent to prevent irritation. It’s a small detail, but it can make a significant difference in your tattoo healing process.

Gym Hygiene

Lastly, practicing good gym hygiene is key in preventing infections. This means wiping down gym equipment before and after use, washing your hands, and showering after your workout. These simple practices can help keep your new tattoo clean and reduce the risk of infection.

Also, if your workout routine includes group fitness classes or public gym spaces, consider bringing your own equipment or mat. This reduces the risk of exposure to bacteria, ensuring your tattoo heals safely and correctly.


Navigating the world of fitness post-inking can seem intimidating, but with the right knowledge and precautions, it’s perfectly achievable. From understanding the importance and stages of tattoo healing to knowing what workouts to embrace and which ones to avoid, you now have the tools to balance your fitness routine and tattoo aftercare.

Remember, your body is a temple, and your tattoo is a part of that temple. Take care of it, respect the healing process, and you’ll have a beautiful piece of body art to show off at your next workout session. Because who says you can’t be both – a fitness enthusiast and a tattoo lover?

Frequently Asked Questions

How long should you wait to work out after a tattoo?

It’s generally recommended to wait at least 48 hours before engaging in strenuous physical activity or heavy sweating after getting a tattoo. It takes about 4 to 6 weeks for the tattoo wound to fully heal.

Is it OK to sweat on a new tattoo?

No, it’s not okay to sweat on a new tattoo as excessive sweat can irritate or damage it. Take it easy and avoid vigorous exercise or activities that make you sweat for at least a few days after getting a new tattoo.

How long after a tattoo can you shower?

You can shower 3-4 hours after getting a tattoo if you have a Saniderm bandage, or wait 24 hours if you have a plastic wrap. Use cold or lukewarm water and avoid prolonged soaking for 3-4 weeks.

Can I workout with SecondSkin on my tattoo?

Avoid working out with SecondSkin on your tattoo as sweat can’t escape the bandage and may cause infection. It’s best to limit exercise and sweating while using SecondSkin.

What workouts can I do with a new tattoo?

You can do low-intensity cardio, strength training not involving the tattooed area, and gentle flexibility exercises to stay active without risking damage to your new tattoo. Remember to take it easy and avoid excessive sweating to promote proper healing.

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