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Feeling Dizzy or Lightheaded After Running

by
author image Martin Booe
Martin Booe writes about health, wellness and the blues. His byline has appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and Bon Appetit. He lives in Los Angeles.
Feeling Dizzy or Lightheaded After Running
Strong focus and a hard effort can leave you dizzy when you exit the track. Photo Credit Hoby Finn/Photodisc/Getty Images

Perhaps you took up running to stabilize your blood pressure, but now you're having dizzy spells afterwards. What gives? If you ever find that a good, vigorous run leaves you feeling dizzy or lightheaded afterwards, you're not alone. Dizziness after running is actually a fairly common occurrence. It's rarely a sign that something serious is wrong.

Most of the possible causes for dizziness after running have to do with a drop in blood pressure, which can bring on not only dizziness and nausea, but even fainting. Fortunately, there are simple solutions to prevent this from happening. However, it's a good idea to consult your physician if none of the obvious remedies solve the problem.

Read More: Stomach Aches After Running

The Importance of Cooling Down

A drop in blood pressure can bring on dizziness, nausea and even fainting. One of the most common reasons for this happening after running is not going into a cool down phase before you stop moving completely. That's especially true for longer runs of, say, 5 miles or more.

When you run, your blood vessels widen to make room for more blood flow. The action of your muscles also serves as an auxiliary pump to convey blood back to the heart to meet the body's spiking need for oxygen. Stopping suddenly is like turning off the extra pump action provided by your muscles.

Your blood vessels are wide and open and the blood has gone to the extremities to facilitate running, but now the blood stranded out there in the arms and legs. This causes your blood pressure to drop, which in turn makes you to feel lightheaded or dizzy because not enough blood is making it up to the brain. The onset can be 20 to 30 minutes after you've stopped running.

Therefore, it's important to keep walking for several minutes after you've finished your run. If you've just run a long race and can't go very far, march or walk in place. Giving yourself a proper cool down allows the heart to slow gradually and the blood to become redistributed.

Dizziness makes you feel unsteady on your feet.
Dizziness makes you feel unsteady on your feet. Photo Credit NA/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images

Dehydration

If you're running a long race or are running in extremely hot, humid weather, it's crucial to pay attention to your fluid and electrolyte balances. Dehydration can bring on dizziness after you've run, especially if you fail to re-hydrate well. Follow the American Council on Exercise tips for healthy hydration. For starters, drinking 17-20 ounces of water 2 to 3 hours prior to exercise.

Low Blood Sugar

Running with too much food in your stomach can cause problems, but so can running with a stomach that's too empty. Run without enough nutrition in your system and you could experience a bout of exercise-induced non-diabetic hypoglycemia, otherwise known as low blood sugar.

In addition to dizziness, it can cause blurry vision, sweating and other unpleasant symptoms. The American Council on Exercise recommends having a small snack of an easily-digested carb -- such as a slice of whole grain bread or a piece of fruit -- about a half hour before exercising.

Read More: Why Do I Get a Severe Headache After Running?

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