A woman with tattoos meditating while sitting down on a yoga mat. Learn whether or not you can work out after getting a tattoo in this article.

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Can You Work Out After Getting a Tattoo? What a Dermatologist and a Tattoo Artist Recommend

Keep your skin and your new ink safe with these after-care exercise tips.

By Michele RossJanuary 4, 2024


Just got a new tattoo (or thinking of getting some ink done soon)? If so, you’re not alone: According to a 2023 survey by the Pew Research Center, nearly 2 in 10 adults under 30 are thinking of getting their first tattoo. (Moreover, 32 percent of US adults already have at least one tattoo—including 38 percent of women and 27 percent of men.) Aside from making the commitment, finding an artist, and setting a date, you’ll also need to learn how to take care of your new tattoo and make a few necessary lifestyle modifications as it heals.

For instance, there’s a good chance you’ll need to hold off on exercise—or, at the very least, opt for tattoo-safe, low-intensity forms of movement. To determine whether or not you can work out after getting a tattoo, plus how long you can anticipate waiting before resuming certain exercises, we reached out to a dermatologist and a tattoo artist for their expert insights and tips.

Can You Work Out After Getting a Tattoo?

Simply put, whether or not you should work out after getting a tattoo depends on a few unique factors, but it’s better to err on the side of caution and stay away from exercise for at least two days. (A tattoo is a lifetime commitment, after all.) 

“It all depends on the individual who gets tattooed, the type of work that is done, and the technique of the artist,” says Chaim Machlev, a tattoo artist and designer behind Dots to Lines, who works in Los Angeles and Berlin. He notes that different types of tattoos will create more damage on the skin and thus lengthen the time it takes to heal… and how long you should wait before breaking a sweat. 

“Generally speaking, lines and dots heal faster than fully covered shaded or colored areas,” he offers as an example. And it makes sense that an intricate, colorful design on your entire back will necessitate a longer healing period than minor work.

When Can You Work Out After Getting a Tattoo?

If you’re getting small and/or fine tattoos such as lines and dots, your waiting time before resuming workouts will be relatively short. “A good rule of thumb is to wait at least 48 hours after getting a tattoo before engaging in any physical activity,” shares board-certified, New York City-based cosmetic dermatologist Michele Green, MD, who offers laser tattoo removal at her practice.

Again, bigger and more involved designs will have lengthier waiting periods and more stipulations. The same goes if you get a tattoo in a place that’s more susceptible to contracting, stretching, or elongating, especially during workouts. Think: your knuckles, elbows, stomach, and knees. “We normally recommend avoiding workouts for a few weeks till we reach a full healing of the tattoo to help it settle down nicely and easily,” Machlev adds.

That said, keep reading, as there are some workarounds to these general rules—so long as they’re cleared by your tattoo artist and/or dermatologist, and performed within reason.

Why Should You Wait to Exercise After Getting a Tattoo?

In short, you should press pause on your regular workouts after a tattoo to help your skin heal safely and safeguard your new ink. “The process of getting a tattoo involves using small needles to create puncture wounds in the skin to deposit ink into,” Dr. Green explains. “As such, getting a tattoo creates an open wound on the skin that is susceptible to infection.”

Exercising too soon after getting inked can heighten the risk of infection, irritation, and premature tattoo fading for several reasons. Dr. Green says these threats exist because:

  • Bacteria on unclean gym equipment (like mats, benches, and props) can enter the wound and cause bacterial infections

  • Stretching and extending your body can rub or pull on the skin, thereby derailing the healing process

  • Excessive sweating while exercising can break down and fade the ink, as well as potentially lead to irritation and infection

“After getting tattooed, the first weeks are crucial for the healing and the recovery of the skin,” Machlev explains. The healing process may eventually entail scabbing and peeling, and new skin will grow. As is the case with any wound, you need to give it proper time and care to change and reconstruct. “Intense workouts could interfere with that phase of the healing and create unnecessary complications and damage to the freshly done piece,” he cautions. 

On top of following your artist’s recommended post-tattoo treatment protocol, holding off on your workouts is one of the best things you can do to expedite healing, maintain skin safety, and ensure your ink is exactly how you envisioned it’d look. “We want to do the best we can to help the skin heal and reconstruct the skin cells,” Machlev continues. “Overall, the better one takes care of their tattoo, the better it will heal and age.”

With all that in mind, pausing or rethinking your physical fitness regimen—especially for the first few days to weeks, or as otherwise instructed by your artist and based on your design—is essential.

A smiling yoga instructor with tattoos sitting down and stretching on their mat in a sunny room. Learn more about whether or not you can work out after getting a tattoo in this article..

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Is There Any Way to Stay Active Immediately After Getting a Tattoo?

In light of the info shared above, just because you got a new tattoo doesn’t mean you need to be a couch potato for 48-plus hours. “Depending on the size and location of your tattoo, some exercises may be OK to resume immediately after the tattooing process,” Dr. Green notes. Conversely, Machlev warns that some types of workouts can be particularly damaging for your fresh ink.

If you’re itching to move your body after getting a tattoo, heed the experts’ yeas, nays, and insights below.

What Exercises Are Safe After Getting a New Tattoo?

“Low-intensity resistance training that will not break a sweat can be OK as long as the workout does not involve the tattooed area,” Dr. Green says. For example, if you get a tattoo on your lower leg, she says arm- and core-strengthening workouts that don’t involve leg work or the potential for friction will be pretty safe. Other forms of gentle exercise—such as light cardio or restorative yoga—normally aren’t a problem, Machlev adds.

With these points in mind, the exercise green light can also hinge upon how much you sweat. For instance, no matter if you want to take a walk, use your dumbbells, or do some squats, if you tend to drip relatively quickly and easily, you’re better off keeping things as tame (and cool) as possible.

What Workouts Should You Avoid with a New Tattoo?

“Some types of workouts can result in extra damage to the fresh tattoo,” Machlev warns. When in doubt, remember his general rule of thumb: “We always suggest avoiding intense workouts that involve sweating and rubbing on the fresh tattoo.”

Some examples include but certainly aren’t limited to:

  • Sprinting

  • Long-distance running

  • HIIT workouts

  • High-contact sports like wrestling, kickboxing, and football

Both experts agree that swimming is an absolute no-go form of exercise after getting a new tattoo. “Swimming should be avoided for at least two weeks following a new tattoo,” Dr. Green says. “Chemically treated pools can lead to infection and irritation, while natural bodies of water such as lakes and oceans can introduce the wound to harmful bacteria.”

Moreover, depending on the nature and placement of your ink, Dr. Green says that you may need to find an alternative to your yoga flow. “The poses involved can stretch the skin and impair effective healing,” she explains. Of course, there are many types of yoga to choose from, so certain classes and/or poses might be fair game on a case-by-case basis.

How to Keep Your New Tattoo Safe During Exercise

Whether you work out a few days, weeks, or even months after getting your new tattoo—all within the bounds of safety and reason as shared above and in agreement with your tattoo artist, of course—you should also take care to protect it during and after exercise.

“Tattoos can take weeks—sometimes months—to fully heal, so it is important to continue to follow protective precautions when resuming physical activity,” Dr. Green says. Her top tips include:

  • Wear loose clothing where the tattoo is located to avoid friction and facilitate the healing process

  • Immediately wash your tattoo (with unscented soap or cleanser that’s safe for sensitive skin) with clean hands after working out to avoid the buildup of sweat, dirt, and bacteria

  • Heed your tattoo artist’s aftercare protocols for as long as needed

Also a good idea: Keep your new tattoos protected from the sun by exercising indoors and/or wearing loose, protective clothing for at least a few weeks.

The Takeaway

While you technically can work out after getting a tattoo, the appropriate exercise timelines will vary based on the size, nature, placement, and color of your design—as well as your own propensity for healing, sweating, and the like. A minimum of two days and as much as a few weeks are generally recommended to hold off on more moderate and intense activity. Yet even yoga and other low-intensity exercises could be in risky territory if they lead to friction, sweating, or stretching the tattoo. Of course, you’ll need to throw these timelines and approved exercises out the window and consult a dermatologist if any complications—such as scratching or infections—arise.

All things considered, your best bet is to play things safe. You’ll definitely want to consult your tattoo artist—and potentially even your trainer or instructor, if you have either—before resuming your typical exercise regimen. Remember: The risk of infecting or messing up the design or color of your tattoo isn’t something to take lightly, as it’ll likely stay with you for life. Investing the time, effort, and patience for proper recovery is crucial to keep your tattoo and skin in its best shape—even if that requires deviating from your norm or temporarily scaling back on your favorite Peloton App classes. (You’ll be able to get back into the regular swing of things before you know it.)

And of course, “enjoy your new piece of art,” Machlev says. “It will adapt to your skin and will only look better and better when it is a part of you.”

This content is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute individualized advice. It is not intended to replace professional medical evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician for questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. If you are having a medical emergency, call your physician or 911 immediately.


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