You Can Work Out Before Your COVID Vaccine, but It Won't Necessarily Boost Immune Response

·3 min read
Woman working out in a park
Woman working out in a park

Got your COVID-19 vaccine appointment soon? Great! If you're contemplating working out beforehand, you are most likely OK to do so. Experts we interviewed agree that working out before a vaccine is generally fine - and there are no CDC guidelines on the matter.

Can You Work Out Before the COVID Vaccine?

Amina Abdeldaim, MD, MPH, the medical director for allergy-treatment brand Picnic and a clinical assistant professor at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, told POPSUGAR that if you are a person who's had severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) in the past, it might be a good idea to "lay low" before your vaccine, meaning "you should maybe not push it with exercise." That's because exercise (as well as alcohol) increases your blood flow, potentially lowering your threshold for an allergic reaction. Exercise, she noted, "dilates the blood vessels in your body, which leads to more allergen getting into your body." It is the same reason why some experts caution against working out right after the vaccine.

The bottom line, though, is that severe allergic reactions are rare (anaphylaxis would typically occur within 15-to-30 minutes, and non-severe immediate allergic reactions - with symptoms like hives, swelling, and wheezing - may occur up to four hours post-vaccine). Working out before the COVID-19 vaccine should be fine, Purvi Parikh, MD, an immunologist and allergist with Allergy & Asthma Network, said. Dr. Abdeldaim agreed, and Sofija Volertas, MD, an assistant professor in UNC's division of rheumatology, allergy, and immunology, added that allergists don't have a definitive answer for someone being 100 percent clear to work out pre-vaccine.

Related: Here's Everything We Know About the Side Effects of the COVID-19 Vaccines So Far

For people wanting to exercise pre-vaccination because they think it will boost their immune response, it won't necessarily do so. We know that there is some evidence that staying active overtime can benefit that response when talking about other vaccines. One small study published last year showed evidence of higher antibody and immune cell levels in elite athletes post flu shot compared with other healthy young people, though no "boost" was found from working out two hours before the vaccine in a followup study. Verywell points out that there is no specific data for how exercise may impact the immune response to the COVID-19 vaccine specifically.

COVID-19 vaccine aside, there are some instances where allergists recommend people do not exercise before certain injections. This is the case, Dr. Volertas told POPSUGAR, for those who are getting allergy shots. Out of an abundance of caution, those people are told to "avoid having significant exercise two to three hours beforehand or afterwards because we're giving them something we know they're allergic to."

So, you can get a sweat session in prior to your COVID-19 vaccine, but if you're unsure - especially if you've had anaphylaxis in the past - contact your doctor to see what they recommend workout-wise. (Note: the CDC advises that those who have a history of severe allergic reactions, aside from immediate allergic reactions to other vaccines, still get vaccinated.)

POPSUGAR aims to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information about the coronavirus, but details and recommendations about this pandemic may have changed since publication. For the latest information on COVID-19, please check out resources from the WHO, CDC, and local public health departments.