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Can you workout after getting a tattoo? What to do + what to avoid


If you’ve recently been inked then you may be wondering: “Can you workout after getting a tattoo?”

Working out after getting a tattoo requires caution and care before diving straight back into your fitness routine.

After all, a fresh tattoo is effectively an open wound, so you need to be careful at least for a few days before hitting the gym or going for a run.

According to a 2022 study, the prevalence of tattoos has significantly increased over the last few decades.

Adding that proper tattoo aftercare, such as cleansing, moisturising, and protection against sunlight, is essential to prevent complications and to keep the beauty of the tattoo.

In this guide I’ll tell you everything you need to know about exercising after getting a tattoo – from what to avoid to caring for your tattoo. 

We’ll look at:

  • What happens to your body after getting a tattoo?
  • How to care for your tattoo
  • How long does it take for a tattoo to heal?
  • Can you workout after getting a tattoo?
  • Working out with a tattoo Q&A
  • Tips for working out after getting a tattoo


Let’s go!

can you workout after getting a tattoo

What happens to your body after getting a tattoo?

Immediately after getting a tattoo you can expect some pain, inflammation, sensitivity and swelling around the tattooed area.

The surrounding skin may also feel warm to the touch. 

This is all part of the healing process and typically subsides within a matter of days.

Here is the tattoo recovery process in more detail:

Days 1 to 3: Inflammation

For the first 48 to 72 hours, the tattoo will be visibly red and swollen.

There may also be some oozing of blood and/or ink during this period which is completely normal.

Any prolonged oozing, however, should be checked out by your tattoo artist or healthcare professional.

Days 4 to 14: Visible recovery

As the healing process continues, the top layer of the skin will start to peel, flake, scab and itch.

Days 15 to 30: Invisible recovery

By week three of the recovery process, the visible signs will have typically resolved themselves, however the tattoo may remain dull and dark until one month after the procedure.

At one month, the tattoo may have taken on its permanent vibrant colour.

Remodelling of the skin underneath the tattoo will also continue for 3 to 6 months until the tattoo is fully healed.

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How to care for your tattoo

During these first few days it’s important you take good care of your tattoo so it can heal properly. 

Make sure you follow the aftercare instructions given to you by your tattoo artist, such as washing the tattoo regularly and keeping it moisturised.

You should avoid soaking the tattoo in water for the first 2 to 3 weeks. 

You’ll also want to avoid picking at any scabs that may form – as tempting as it may be!

Your tattoo is an open wound so treat it as such.

Keep it clean, dry, and avoid touching it with unclean hands. 

If you see any signs of infection such as redness, swelling or pus, make sure you contact your tattoo artist or doctor straight away.

Taking care of your tattoo properly will ensure it heals well and will keep the integrity of the tattoo design intact. 

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can you workout after getting a tattoo

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How long does it take for a tattoo to heal?

Typically, it takes about 4 to 6 weeks for your tattoo to fully heal, depending on the size, design and saturation of colour in the tattoo. 

However, as explained above, for some individuals it can take 3 to 6 months to fully heal.

During the healing process, your tattoo is susceptible to infection, and exercising may cause unnecessary strain on the area, delaying the healing process. 

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Can you workout after getting a tattoo?

In the first few days following your tattoo procedure it’s best you avoid any strenuous or high intensity exercise to allow your body to heal.

This means avoiding exercise like running, weightlifting or any exercise that gets your heart racing.

It’s best to avoid strenuous exercise for at least 1 to 2 weeks. 

Instead opt for low impact exercise like walking and yoga. 

If you must continue with your fitness routine, it’s important you protect your tattoo and follow all the necessary precautions.

Avoid direct sunlight and any activity that promotes excessive sweating.

Friction against the tattoo can also lead to your tattoo fading prematurely or even getting infected, so ensure you keep your tattoo covered.

Wear loose-fitting clothing so that it does not rub against your tattoo. 

Once your tattoo starts to scab and peel, this is a sign you can slowly start to resume your regular exercise routine.

However you’ll still need to be careful and avoid any activities that involve direct contact with your tattoo. 

“When doing any workout after getting a tattoo, common sense is king. If it hurts, stings, or just feels wrong in any way, take a break or adjust your training. Missing a few days of working out will be worth it to ensure you and your tattoo stay healthy.”

Mr Inkwells, California’s leading tattoo artist

Remember getting a tattoo is a big personal and financial commitment so take extra care.

Take it easy and listen to your body. 

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can you workout after getting a tattoo

Working out with a tattoo Q&A

Q: Will sweating damage the tattoo?

A: Sweating alone won’t necessarily damage your tattoo, but wiping and rubbing the tattooed area can cause damage.

Q: Will stretching or flexing damage the tattoo?

A: If you’re planning to do exercises that involve a lot of stretching or flexing in the area where you got your tattoo, there’s a chance it could cause damage.

However, if your tattoo is fully healed and you’re taking proper care of your tattoo, it’s unlikely stretching and flexing will cause any harm. 

Q: Can I swim with a new tattoo?

A: Experts recommend waiting at least two weeks, if not longer, before swimming or soaking in water with a new tattoo. 

The chemicals in pools and hot tubs can be harsh on fresh ink and increase the risk of infection. 

Remember to take care of your tattoo and follow the aftercare instructions provided by your tattoo artist. 

If you’re concerned about exercising with your new tattoo, consult with your artist or a healthcare professional for their input.

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can you workout after getting a tattoo

Tips for working out after getting a tattoo

Here are some tips to keep in mind before working out with a new tattoo. 

#1 Wait until your tattoo is fully healed

First and foremost, you must wait until your tattoo is fully healed. 

Typically, this takes about four to six weeks, depending on the size and design. 

During the healing process, your tattoo is susceptible to infection, and exercising may cause unnecessary strain on the area, delaying the healing process. 

#2 Keep your tattoo clean

Keep your tattoo clean and dry. 

Avoid sweating excessively during exercise and cleanse the skin with mild soap and water as soon as possible after finishing your workout. 

Leaving sweat and grime on your tattoo risks clogging the pores and impeding the healing process. 

#3 Avoid direct sunlight

Direct sunlight can be harmful to a new tattoo. 

It is recommended to avoid exposure to direct sunlight or tanning beds until the tattoo is completely healed. 

#4 Cover the tattoo

Cover the tattoo with protective clothing or sunblock, especially when exercising outdoors. 

Opt for loose-fitting clothes that don’t rub against your new tattoo, causing irritation or friction burns. 

#5 Drink plenty of water

Finally, don’t forget to drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated, aiding in the healing process. 

Related: Hydration and running performance: 4 key hydration tips for runners

Caroline Geoghegan