Your Health Questions Answered

Is It Safe to Exercise After Getting the Covid-19 Vaccine?

A medical adviser for Orangetheory Fitness says working out after getting the vaccine may help prevent soreness and fatigue, but if you've actually had Covid, the answer is more complicated.

By Allison Forsyth April 21, 2021

Image: Gigi Ortwein

If you are used to hitting the gym every morning, you might be wondering whether getting the Covid-19 vaccine will affect your workout routine. While there is no data showing it is harmful to return to exercising right away, you may wait a few days if your immune response is severe, with fever, chills and headache. However, if you only experience soreness at the injection site or fatigue, exercise might help ease immunization symptoms.

The president of the Florida Chapter of American College of Cardiology, Dr. David Perloff, suggests letting your body be your guide. He has been treating Covid-19 patients over the last year and also serves on the medical advisory board for Orangetheory Fitness.

"It is quite safe to exercise after vaccination, although you may not feel like it," says Perloff. If symptoms keep you from doing daily activities, exercise may have to be put on hold. However, if you only experience muscle soreness and fatigue, movement like light weight training and aerobic exercise might help you feel better faster.

Dr. David Perloff.

If you have recovered from Covid-19, returning to exercise is more complicated. For mild cases, waiting the 14-day quarantine period might be just enough time. However, Dr. Perloff suggests having your heart and lungs evaluated by a physician before returning to the gym. The sicker you are, the longer it's going to take to recover and the longer you should wait.

"About 20 to 30 percent of Covid patients experience cardiovascular and pulmonary effects, like chest discomfort, shortness of breath, palpitations and fever," says Perloff. If you have cardiovascular symptoms, Perloff says to seek medical attention prior to exercising, and if you have a true cardiovascular complication like cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, arrhythmia etc., you should not exercise for three to six months.

When that time period is up, return slowly. Start your exercise routine at 5o percent of what you did before Covid, and then increase the intensity over several weeks until you are back at 100 percent. Perloff suggests starting with light cardio, like walking on a treadmill or riding a bike, or light weight training or anaerobic exercise. A mix of types can improve oxygen consumption and endurance.

If you experienced other complications from the virus, like gastrointestinal disruptions, blood clots or musculoskeletal issues, seek advice from a medical professional about proper exercise. Avoid dehydration by drinking fluids regularly, and check for swelling in your legs and dizziness to ensure blood clots have not formed. These can also be rare complications from Covid-19 immunization, so checking with a doctor before turning to online sources is important. If muscle soreness gets worse from exercise, refrain until recovered.

What about wearing masks, social distancing and returning to the gym? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines maintain that wearing a mask and social distancing is important even after vaccination. Many gyms and indoor fitness classes require masks to keep safe. According to Perloff, the first dose of vaccine does not cause a patient's viral illness if they contract Covid. However, the immunity from the vaccine does not protect you from getting the virus until at least three to four weeks after the first shot."Vaccine immunity doesn't occur immediately, and even asymptomatic infection can pass to someone else," he says. Continue to wear a mask and check your symptoms daily.

For someone considered a "long-hauler," who feels residual effects of the virus long after its left the body, exercise can aid the recovery process. Taking things slow, remaining patient and getting a mixture of aerobic and anaerobic exercise is the best way to proceed.

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