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What you need to know about exercising after your COVID-19 vaccination (or booster)
Have you recently received your COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot and have questions about when you can return to exercise?
This post is for you.
According to Our World In Data, as of December 12, 2021, 56.6% of the world population has received 1 dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. In the United States, 61% of our total population is fully vaccinated.
Although ~8.5 billion doses of vaccine have been administered worldwide, limited evidence exists on return to activity post-vaccine.
If you perform a simple google search, you’ll read the same thing over and over…
“Your return to activity depends on your side-effects and how you feel.”
Although this statement is broad, it is not wrong. If we look at some of the side-effects of the COVID-19 vaccine they include:
- Pain, Redness & Swelling at the injection site.
- Muscle Aches & Pain
Heck, I wouldn’t feel like exercising if I had some of the symptoms above… would you?
Many sources recommend “waiting out the side effects” before you start a high-intensity exercise. Meanwhile, others note that exercising may improve your immune response and generalized soreness post-vaccine. In Singapore, they recommend waiting 1+ weeks before returning to exercise!
What I’ve learned plugging away through the limited research…
There are no definitive guidelines when returning to activity post-vaccine.
I think the most important thing when returning to exercise post-vaccine is… listen to your body.
Vaccines impact the way our bodies function. When we receive a new vaccine or experience an illness, our sympathetic nervous system activates to drive an immune response. What does that mean? Basically, when ill or post-vaccine our fight or flight and stimulus becomes active. That means a higher resting heart rate and increased stress on our bodies. That is until our parasympathetic nervous (rest and digest system) kicks in.
Depending on your body’s immune response, this “heightened alert” may last several days to several weeks. During this time, it is possible to experience a 10+ beat increase in resting heart rate, increased fatigue, and stress! What does that mean when you’re exercising?
Your body is already functioning at a higher RPM than normal (yes, throwing in car references, as always)! That means your body is working harder at baseline. During exercise, you may feel that you fatigue faster and that your endurance may be lacking. You may feel that your performance is tanking.. but remember, it’s only temporary. Our bodies are remarkable. Science is remarkable. Release those ants from your pants, and be patient.
So, post-vaccine my best recommendations are…..
- Listen to your body.
- Track your resting HR. If you notice it is still elevated, take it easy! (Or you can let us do it for you… click here!)
- Give your immune system time to do what it’s meant to do.
- Do not be hard on yourself if you miss a few days of training.
- Do not fret if you have to decrease your training load, intensity, or velocity. You will be okay!
- If you’re feeling cruddy and itching for exercise, go out on a walk, lift lightly, try some yoga and relax when needed!
- If you experience prolonged or serious side effects, discuss them with your healthcare providers.