Can You Exercise After Covid Vaccine? When & How To Work Out

Sure, working out how to get moving again after having Covid is no mean feat, but advice on whether / how to exercise after the Covid vaccine is also, to put it bluntly, bloomin ‘confusing.

To date, more than 133 million jabs have been given in the UK, and women across the country are reporting a myriad of post-jab side effects.

Some of you might have just had a bit of an achy arm, others might have been wiped out with full blown cold symptoms for a few days, and it’s largely these nuances that inform how you should approach exercise after a Covid vaccine.

We caught up with Sports and Exercise Medicine Consultants Dr. Amal Hassan and Dr. Rebecca Robinson for the top six things you Needle to know about the topic.

1. Can you exercise after the Covid vaccine?

When asked whether exercising after the Covid vaccine is safe, it was a resounding yes from both Dr. Hassan and Dr. Robinson.

While you might have heard through the grapevine that it’s best to wait a day or two before getting back to the gym post-jab, Dr. Hassan says the rationale behind this is to ‘give your body a break from additional physical stress whilst it mounts an immune response to the vaccine ‘, but adds that,’ There’s no evidence to suggest that exercising after your Covid vaccine could interfere with this immune response. Your body will prioritize this, however, and as a side effect, your physical body might “suffer” in the short term. ‘

In other words, you may feel more exhausted after a workout than you usually do, since your body is managing two sources of stress: exercise + the vaccine.

Dr Robinson, meanwhile, adds that a couple of studies have been undertaken in elite athletes, and results show that even at particularly high intensity, there is ‘minimal impact on the body’s physiological response’ to exercise after the Covid vaccine.

So far, so good.

2. How long should you wait to exercise after the Covid vaccine?

There is no ‘fixed guideline’ to how long you should give the gym a miss post-jab, so says Dr Hassan, but it could be wise to wait a couple of days before trying any extra intense workouts, for side effects to rear their ugly heads.

By giving side effects a chance to come into fruition, you’ll know whether doing any high-intensity exercise is going to do more harm than good (spoiler: if you’re feeling run down, it will). ‘If this is you, stick to slow walks and stay hydrated,’ Dr Robinson advises.

She makes another good point: ‘It’s possible to contract Covid before the vaccine becomes effective (peak effectiveness after the double vaccine course and booster is around three weeks), so not exercising when you feel under the weather could prevent you from inadvertently exercising through Covid . ‘ Read: you could mistake Covid for post Covid vaccine symptoms, and thus make your Covid experience worse by pushing through.

NB: It’s not possible to catch Covid from the vaccine, Dr. Robinson says.

3. What exercise should you avoid after the Covid vaccine?

Again, there’s no blueprint. ‘If you’ve recovered well, you might not need to avoid anything,’ Dr Hassan explains, adding, however, that the most common symptoms will ‘interfere with most exercise forms’. These include:

  • Body aches and soreness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Nausea

    ‘Just as with any recovery day, or any day that you are feeling unwell, either avoid or modify the type and intensity of the activities you do (depending on the severity of your symptoms) to ensure that your body has adequate energy and reserve to function first in day-to-day activities, before gradually getting back to it, ‘Dr Hassan concludes.

    4. How do you know if you’re not ready to exercise yet?

    Got a fitness tracker? Dr Hassan says they could be a handy way of identifying whether you’re well enough to exercise or not, and research from WHOOP – a brand of wearables favored by athletes – shows how.

    Join WHOOP for £ 30 / month

    ‘Use your metrics as guidance,’ says Dr. Hassan. ‘WHOOP reported that up to a fifth of users showed significantly elevated resting heart rates (greater than 10 bpm elevated) and a significant decrease in heart rate variability (at least 20% below baseline) in response to the vaccine.’ These are both signs you need to take a step back from exercising.

    ‘Of course, this is likely to be a very biased sample, and the vast majority of users demonstrated no change to their data. If they did, it was very short lived, to a twenty-four-hour period. ‘ Still, interesting food for thought for anyone who does fall in the former camp.

    Dr Hassan adds: ‘Listen to your body – there’s no rush.’

    5. Why might I feel differently after or during exercise, following the Covid vaccine?

    This all boils down to the process of your body creating an immune response to the vaccine. Imagine your body building walls around your organs to keep the virus out – this uses the same ‘key physiological systems relied upon during exercise’, Dr Hassan explains, and so since they’re being used for two processes, ‘You’ll likely find that lower intensities are much harder work, and your recovery needs may be greater. ‘

    Dr. Robinson pinpointed one study that showed the vaccine could make your heart rate increase sooner and knock your nervous system for six, which could both make exercise feel harder. ‘However, there was no change in oxygen levels in the blood and heart changes typically settle as the body adapts to vaccination,’ she adds.

    6. How do I know if I need expert help?

    There are two ways to look at this one: the immediate response, then how you feel over time.

    You know how you’re told to wait outside for 15 minutes after every vaccine? This is to ensure you don’t experience an allergic reaction, and is the first case in which you’d need expert help, Dr. Robinson explains.

    If you walk out of your vaccination center feeling on top of the world (boosters for the win), but you end up developing new (or common) symptoms that ‘worsen or persist’, this is another instance in which you need to seek medical help. According to Dr. Hassan, these symptoms could include:

    • A headache
    • Limb swelling
    • Chest bread
    • Palpitations
    • Unusual breathlessness
    • A persistent fever
    • A rash

      Otherwise, if you’re just struggling to return to normal levels of exercise, Dr Hassan recommends seeking a referral to an NHS Sports & Exercise Medicine Clinic. ‘There are a number of NHS services across the UK, as well as other private options,’ she adds.

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