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What You Need to Know About Working Out After Getting the COVID Vaccine

A woman and man in a weight lifting gym with masks on strength training with dumbbells.

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Key Takeaways

  • How your body will respond after receiving the COVID-19 is completely individualized. Some may experience no symptoms, while others may have more significant side effects.
  • Monitor how you are feeling, and assess if your regular workout needs to be modified or a rest day is in order after receiving the vaccine.
  • Continue to follow appropriate safety measures when working out, especially in public. Just because you are vaccinated doesn't mean the others around you are.

If you've ever received a flu shot in your upper arm, you may remember that muscle soreness that can linger around for a few days. Well, according to those who've received the vaccine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this feeling may also be common after getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Can You Workout After Receiving the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Yes, you can, but you may not feel like it. While there are no specific guidelines at this time put out by the CDC regarding fitness protocols post-vaccination, it's very important that individuals use common sense, and assess how their body feels in the immediate hours and days after receiving the shot.

After speaking with five registered dietitian nutritionists who received the vaccine and actively follow a structured workout regimen, each one had a different reaction to the vaccination they received. This emphasizes the importance of individualized protocols when it comes to modifying your workouts directly post-vaccination to ensure you prevent injury and allow your immune system the time it needs to return to normal.

How Will the Vaccine Affect Your Workouts?

Let's take a closer look at the two mainstream vaccines currently available in the United States, and how they've affected individuals workouts.

Reports From Those Who Received the Pfizer Vaccine

Lauren Manaker, a registered dietitian nutritionist in South Carolina, received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine and had very different reactions after each dose. She notes that with the first dose, she was able to continue her same workout regimen that day, whereas with the second dose, she was extremely fatigued and unable to workout for two full days.

Lauren Kaufman, a New York City-based registered dietitian nutritionist, said she had very mild symptoms with the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. However, with the second dose, the symptoms were stronger, including not only fatigue and arm pain, but a headache, as well. She refrained from working out for two days and felt fine to return to normal activity after these rest days.

Unlike Manaker and Kauffman, who experienced more fatigue and muscle soreness with the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, Cara Harbstreet, a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Missouri, experienced more significant muscle soreness that required her to take a planned rest day after receiving her first dose of the vaccine. While she did note feeling some muscle soreness with the second dose, she did not have the extreme fatigue the others experienced, and was able to continue her strength training circuit that day.

Reports From Those Who Received the Moderna Vaccine

Melissa Groves Azzaro, a registered dietitian nutritionist in New Hampshire, received the first dose of the Moderna vaccine and reported very mild muscle soreness after the injection site post-vaccination, but no real fatigue. While she's yet to receive the second dose, she has heard from close family members that they were fatigued for up to three days after the second dose. As she gears up for her second dose later this week, she's front loading her workouts to ensure she can still get her desired movement in.

Shannon Leininger, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Nevada, has received both doses of the Moderna vaccine without experiencing many symptoms at all. With the first, she reported a mildly sore arm that did not inhibit her strength training regimen that day. With the second dose, she did note having to take a rest day due to the fatigue, but did not feel her symptoms were severe at all.

Regardless if you receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, the way your body will individually respond to each dose will be unique. While most symptoms included complaints of muscle soreness and fatigue, it's important to be cognizant of how your body feels and adjust your workout regimen as necessary.

What Fitness Experts Want You To Know

Again, there are no standardized recommendations as of today on how to proceed post-vaccination with your workout regimen. However, two fitness experts have some sage advice to take note of.

Damien Evans, a certified personal trainer and co-owner of the fitness chain Eat the Frog Fitness in Southern California, says, "The most important thing to understand is that if you are showing signs or symptoms of being sick, this is your body working overtime to make you well again. Any extra high-intensity activities would be adding to that stress."

He adds, "What many people forget is that exercise is a positive stress on the body when you are healthy. However, if your body is under large amounts of stress already—in this case the immune system is working hard and firing on all cylinders as it processes the vaccine—then throwing extra stress through exercise will be doing more harm than good."

Evans suggests listening to your body and thinking more conservatively as to how to exercise in the days after being vaccinated. For example, he encourages his clients to take a walk outside (if weather permits) or try a slow flow yoga class.

Harbstreet, who has a background in sports nutrition and fitness, agrees with Evans' philosophy, noting, "Even if you don’t feel like you’re experiencing severe symptoms (beyond fatigue, muscle soreness, and body aches), your body is still working to mount an immune response. You might feel like forging ahead with your usual workouts, but you can also adjust as needed after you start to accommodate how your body responds. A rest day is not a wasted day when it comes to fitness and overall wellbeing."

Cara Harbstreet, MS, RD, LD

Listen to your body and its individual needs. A rest day is not a wasted day when it comes to fitness and overall wellbeing!

— Cara Harbstreet, MS, RD, LD

What Safety Precautions Should You Practice Post-Vaccination?

It's important to remember that just because you have been vaccinated does not mean all those who workout around you have been too. Following the same etiquette you did prior to getting the vaccine if you are working out in a public place is recommended—that means wearing a mask or facial covering, practicing safe social distancing, and sanitizing equipment after use.

While all five dietitians interviewed above said they still feel safest working out at home and have invested in equipment since the pandemic began in order to do so, Evans notes that at his fitness club, the same protocols remain in place whether a member has been vaccinated or not.

"Our studio has moved outdoors and all stations are six-feet apart. Members are required to wear a mask as they enter into their own designated workout area after getting their temperature checked, then are allowed to remove the mask during their workout," he said. "All stations are sanitized after use and longer times have been extended between classes to allow ample time to do so."

Remember, just because you have been vaccinated doesn't mean those around you have. Practice the same safety protocols you did prior to receiving the vaccination as well as those regulations enforced by the specific facility you exercise at.

What This Means for You

Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to the question of how the COVID-19 vaccine will affect your next workout. Based on experience from avid fitness enthusiasts and experts in the field, getting the vaccination should not derail your fitness progress. It may require you to engage in some modified exercises or take a rest day or two, but in most cases you can return to normal activity within a few days.

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