Working Out With A New Tattoo: Gym & Exercise Guide

  • Written By Dan Hunter on November 28, 2018
    Last Updated: January 13, 2021

After getting a tattoo, you know that you need to be careful, and most of you know that you shouldn’t do anything too strenuous for a while. However, some of you gym and fitness buffs will be itching to get back into your routine as soon as possible after getting inked.

Working out with a new tattoo can be done, but you must be careful with your approach.


How Long Should You Wait?

After completing your tattoo, your artist will likely advise that you rest up for at least 48 hours before restarting vigorous physical activity or anything that may cause heavy sweating. A tattoo will generally take 4-6 weeks to heal, so you may have to wait longer than 48 hours depending on several factors.

Factors that will influence how long you should wait before working out include:

Tattoo Age

A brand-new tattoo is going to be much more vulnerable to getting damaged compared to a tattoo that is a few days into the healing process. While some people choose to work out on the very same day they get their new tattoo, this is generally discouraged, and you should allow your body at least a short time to recover.

Tattoo Placement

Tattoos that are placed out of the way during an exercise or workout you’re undertaking will mean it’s less likely to become damaged, whereas if your tattoo is in a location relevant to what you are doing, there is more of a chance of an incident occurring with your ink.

If you’re playing soccer with a small tattoo on your forearm which is covered under a long-sleeve shirt, it’s unlikely you’ll have too much trouble, whereas if you were playing soccer with a new tattoo on the top of your foot, things become a lot more dangerous for your ink.

Working out with a new tattoo
An upper arm tattoo means curls at the gym are a no-go for at least 2/3 weeks

Workout/Exercise Type

All types of workouts, exercises, and gym routines pose different challenges to a new tattoo depending on what body parts are in use and how likely it will be for a particular tattoo to be involved in the type of exercise you’re doing. This ties in well with the point above about tattoo placement.

Workout Intensity

The harder and more intense you work out, the more likely it is for your tattoo to become damaged.

Firstly, the harder you’re working out, the less you’ll be focusing on being careful with your tattoo.

Secondly, heavy sweating around a new tattoo can disrupt the ink which has yet to have a chance to settle in place underneath the skin, potentially leaving areas of patchiness and fading.

Lastly, the tattooing process (especially with larger tattoos) is very taxing on your body and prompts a massive healing response. Carrying out intense exercise too prematurely after getting a tattoo and not giving your body the time it needs to rest can cause delayed recovery times.

Workout Clothing

You need to be especially careful with what you wear when it comes to working out and exercising with a new tattoo. Clothing that is too tight can cause the tattoo to rub against it, threatening irritation and possible fading.

On the other hand, clothing that is too loose can invite dirt and bacteria beneath it, opening your tattoo up to the risk of infection.

Workout Location

Working out in a dirty gym or a muddy field can open your tattoo up to all kinds of harmful germs and bacteria that can potentially cause infection.

Risks of Working Out With a New Tattoo

There are plenty of ways in which you could damage your new tattoo through exercise if you’re not careful. Below are the most common risk factors you should take into consideration.

Rubbing and Irritation

Rubbing your tattoo on either clothing, exercise equipment, or other body parts can irritate the recovering area of skin and further delay healing.

Ink Loss

Losing ink from a tattoo is not as uncommon as you may think. Although tattoos are generally quite good at retaining most of the ink during healing, certain events can increase the risk of ink being lost through the upper layers of skin. Getting a tattoo saturated (wet) can cause ink to leak out, so try your hardest to keep the area dry.

This also means you should not attempt to do anything too intense and which may cause profuse sweating around the area of your tattoo. While a little sweating is completely natural and shouldn’t cause a problem, excess quantities of sweat could cause areas of the tattoo to leak small amounts of ink, which in turn could lead to noticeable fading.

Ripping a Scab

Keeping scabs intact and attached to your skin until they fall off entirely on their own accord is very important while your tattoo is healing. Even if a scab is hanging on by a thread, it could still be attached deeply enough to pull out ink if it’s accidentally (or purposefully) ripped off.

For this reason, you need to be exceptionally aware of your scabbing tattoo at all times when exercising, as the smallest of movements could rip a scab away from the skin. Keeping a tattoo covered as best as possible with protective clothing is a good way of shielding it.

Feeling Additional Pain

Any touching or rubbing against your tattoo can painful, so be aware of this if you’re planning on participating in any sports or activities which may involve occasional contact between the tattooed area of your body and any other object, including other areas of your body.

Getting an Infection

A crucial point to remember when exercising with a new tattoo is that you will be much more prone to infection while your skin is still healing. A new tattoo is essentially just a large open skin wound, and therefore you should try your utmost to treat it like one and keep it as clean as possible.

Participating in dirty sports like soccer and rugby is a big no-no, and be aware that most gym equipment is generally filthy and teeming with harmful bacteria. Therefore, keep your tattoo well away from sweaty weight benches and floor mats.

Allowing your new ink to come into contact with any form of bacteria highly increases the risk of your tattoo becoming infected. If an infection is not treated promptly by a medical professional, it can lead to permanent damage to your tattoo.

Decreased Performance

Participating in competitive sports while nurturing a new tattoo can be detrimental to your performance for many reasons.

Pain and tenderness could cause you to slow down, worrying about the tattoo could cause you to lose focus on your activity, and recovery from a long tattooing session could make you feel overly exhausted.

Make sure you know before entering any kind of competitive activity that there is a real risk that your tattoo could make you perform much less than optimal. Schedule your session accordingly.

Post-Gym/Workout Tattoo Aftercare Routine

Always clean your tattoo thoroughly as soon as you possibly can after finishing exercise – especially if your tattoo has come into contact with something dirty.

It’s extremely useful if you try to remember to take a good antibacterial, skin-sensitive soap with you to wherever you’re working out so you can sterilize the area immediately upon finishing.

Once clean, apply a good tattoo healing lotion or skin-sensitive moisturizer to the area to re-hydrate the skin and to promote a quicker healing response.

The best tattoo lotion I’ve ever personally used is a vegan-friendly aftercare product called After Inked Tattoo Aftercare Lotion. This stuff works amazingly well during the healing process; not only by keeping your tattoo really well hydrated but also by soothing any annoying itching and irritation. When using it from the very start of the healing process, this lotion will help to decrease tattoo healing times and work towards eliminating any lingering dryness and scabbing.

Finally, remember that gym showers and locker rooms can be disgusting, and although they may sometimes look clean, they can still be crawling with bacteria. Therefore, keep your tattoo well-shielded, even after you’ve finished your workout/exercise routine.

Summary

Working out and exercising with a new tattoo isn’t exactly optimal, but if you must do it soon after getting inked then be sure to follow our tips and advice so you can be confident your tattoo ends up healing and turning out as best as possible.