Just had your Covid-19 booster jab? Here’s everything you need to know about exercising on the day and immediately after getting it.
The rise of Omicron last year might feel a world away from where we’re at with Covid today, but lots of us are now getting our second booster jabs (especially those who are immuno-suppressed). It’s all part of the country’s plan to keep numbers low and ensure that the NHS isn’t overwhelmed as we head into its busiest time of year.
After your first two doses, you knew how you’d feel post-jab – so your first booster probably wasn’t that daunting. But by jab number four, you may well have forgotten how you reacted to the previous inoculations. It’s also worth remembering that the way in which we react can change and the amount of rest and recovery needed is very individual. While you don’t need to cancel all of your plans, you should be cautious about what activities you choose to do after getting a vaccine.
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That’s particularly true when it comes to exercising. If you’re wondering if it’s safe to exercise with muscle soreness, particularly in your jabbed arm, or whether a workout can help or hinder your body’s response to the vaccine, here’s everything you need to know.
Can I exercise before the Covod-19 vaccine?
“Exercise in the lead up to the vaccination (ie the day before) is fine and may in fact increase the likelihood of a beneficial response to the vaccine by improving your immune response. This hasn’t been shown with the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine but has been reported with the flu vaccine,” says Dr James Hull, associate professor at the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health at University College London.
Research, including a 2019 paper published in the Journal Of Sport And Health Science, has shown that exercise can improve immunity in the long term, but each exercise bout also causes an instant (albeit transient) increase in white blood cells, cytokines and other immune responses.
Despite this, Dr Hull says that you shouldn’t exercise vigorously on the day of vaccination. “It’s just a logical approach,” he says. “If you then get a reaction including muscle pain or headaches, you won’t know if it’s the vaccine or the vigorous exercise you’ve done.”
Can I exercise after the Covid-19 vaccine?
If you had plans to join a workout class after your vaccine, you might want to re-plan. “Light exercise is fine but we generally recommend avoiding very hard exercise in the 48 hours post vaccination,” says Dr Hull. “This is on the basis that a large proportion of people will develop some, usually minor, side effects (eg headache and muscle aches).”
Dr Hull’s research has found that 83% of young people who had the Pfizer vaccine reported local reactogenicity (ie arm aches) and 50% of people had systemic reactogenicity including fatigue and headache.
“It is not pleasant to try and exercise hard with these symptoms, so it’s best to plan your training week around your vaccination and build in a couple of recovery days.”
Is it safe to exercise after the Covid-19 vaccine?
Working out when you feel nauseous, fatigued, headachy or have muscle pain is never advised, whether that’s through illness, a hangover, a vaccine or any other reason. As for whether your workout impact your vaccine? “There’s no known evidence for exercise to impact the effectiveness of the vaccine,” says Dr Hull.
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If you feel completely side effect free, you are probably safe to exercise. But given that side-effects can take a while to develop, there’s no need to push yourself. “I would stick to gentle exercise such as walking for 48 hours,” reiterates Dr Hull. “Unless you are a very elite or professional athlete, there’s simply no need to exercise on the day of your appointment.”
Remember that the vaccine doesn’t mean you are immune to coronavirus or can’t pass it on to other people, so if you do start to develop cold-like symptoms, do everyone a favour and stay at home rather than heading into the office or gym.
Most importantly, take it slow and give yourself a break if you need to. Your immune system will be working hard in response to the vaccine, so don’t try to put your body under too much other pressure.
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