After vaccination, you might wonder how long you should wait before you can exercise safely, and at what intensity you should start exercising. Vitality wellness experts weigh in.
The medical guidance around COVID-19 evolves as we learn more about the virus, but there are some existing rules from vaccinology that can help us decide whether exercise is a good idea or not after vaccination, and how to go about exercising safely.
“Let’s start with the build-up before vaccination. Our recommendation is to exercise regularly when you are well. If you are exercising, do so as per normal on the day of vaccination. You could include some upper body exercises such as push-ups and bicep curls, but you should take a rest day the day after vaccination,” says Mari Leach, biokineticist at Discovery Vitality.
Dr Mosima Mabunda, head of wellness at Discovery Vitality says the clinical research shows that regular exercise may boost our immune response to vaccines. “A recently published meta-analysis showed evidence suggesting regular exercise contributes to a more effective immune system and improves our immune response after vaccination,” she says.
Physical activity is generally a good idea
“Many of us know that regular exercise protects against non-communicable diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. But the research tells us that physical activity also improves resilience against communicable disease, including COVID-19, so exercising safely is a generally good idea,” says Dr Mabunda.
What the data shows:
- The meta-analysis found that regular physical activity reduces the risk of dying from infectious diseases, such as COVID-19, by 37% and reduces susceptibility to such viruses by 31%.
- Vitality data further shows that engaging in healthy lifestyle behaviours, including regular physical activity, can reduce the impact of COVID-19. Our most engaged members have an 81% lower risk of death from COVID-19 than those who are not engaged.
But once you are vaxxed, when can you start exercising? “Vaccination is likely to only impact your routine because of the associated mild side effects, which differ from person to person. From personal experience and guidelines from the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and South African government, among others, the most common side effect is pain in the arm where the shot was administered. This can last a few days. In this case, you would not do weight-bearing exercises on that arm if it is painful to do so. Movement is recommended, but this can be light exercise like yoga or aerobic workouts,” says Leach.
Dr Mabunda adds: “The rest of the body is your next consideration days after vaccinating. If you feel tired, have a headache or muscle pain, again listen to your body and take a break or reduce exercise to a comfortable level. The CDC tells us that if you have side effects that are worrying or do not seem to be going away after a few days, you should contact your doctor for guidance,” she says.
“It takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccination. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second shot of the Pfizer–BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, or two weeks after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson ( Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine,” says Dr Mabunda.
She adds that people should generally “listen to our bodies. The good news is that should you get side effects, they usually resolve after one to two days for most people.”
Leach says as with any fitness and exercise, when changing contexts like with illness, lack of sleep or a change in environment, intuition is important. “If you exercise every day, you can go back to that routine after vaccination when you feel well enough to. What you shouldn’t do is make sudden changes to your routine or intensity of your exercise – do what your body knows and gradually increase intensity when your body is able to.”
This post and content is sponsored, written and provided by Discovery Vitality.