Should you exercise after being vaccinated?

This week we’re going to discuss vaccinations – but more specifically, the effect of exercise on vaccination.

Vaccinations vary in effectiveness and can cause individuals to feel a little run down afterwards as the body shows a muted immune response designed to cause the vaccination to take effect.

One thing that is often not so readily discussed though is vaccine aftercare.

A question we often get asked is: is it sensible to exercise after a vaccine?

The facts and figures.

In 2014, Ranadive et al investigated whether or not exercise was safe immediately after flu vaccination – the most widely studied vaccines – in a group of 55-75 year olds.

The subjects were either given the flu vaccine or a placebo, then immediately asked to exercise at 55-65% HR maximum.

The study found that whilst immune markers were higher post flu vaccine, there were no adverse outcomes of exercising immediately after. 

Plus, the vaccine was just as effective a number of weeks later.

Edwards and Booy also published a review in 2013 outlining that in older adults (over 55), those who exercised regularly for 10 months or more had a better immune response to the vaccine, rendering it more effective.

The same review also revealed that acute exercise after vaccination can improve response in sub-optimal responses (i.e. those who typically do not respond as well, or vaccines that have a lower effectiveness rate).

To provide further evidence on these findings…

In 2002, Kahut et al found that there was a positive relationship between both physical activity levels and vaccine immune effectiveness. Moreover, those that were more optimistic in their psychological output were also found to have more effective responses to the vaccine.

Just last year, Bohn-Goldbaum et al found that a 45-minute resistance session post- vaccination was able to reduce adverse outcomes in over 70 year olds (0% vs 17.4%).

So to conclude, the collective results of these studies seem to prove that the effect exercise has on vaccination is, in fact, an extremely positive one.

When it comes to vaccines, it’s good to know:

• COVID-19 vaccines are safe and have been well-researched

• Exercise has been proven to reduce adverse outcomes and potentially improve effectiveness in vaccinations, particularly in older adults.

• Your body will tell you everything you need to know – if you do develop side effects that include headache, fever and lethargy, try very gentle exercise but also rest and seek medical attention if symptoms worsen.

Words of wisdom:

“Typically, people who exercise, start eating better and becoming more productive at work. […] They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.”

– Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.