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What Causes Disorientation During Exercise?

by
author image Solomon Branch
Solomon Branch specializes in nutrition, health, acupuncture, herbal medicine and integrative medicine. He has a B.A. in English from George Mason University, as well as a master's degree in traditional Chinese medicine.
What Causes Disorientation During Exercise?
Elderly man exercising with weights Photo Credit Jose Luis Pelaez Inc./Blend Images/Getty Images

Being disoriented while exercising is often a sign of overexertion, dehydration, or not getting enough to eat. A simple adjustment to your exercise routine or eating and drinking habits will usually help get rid of the problem. If you start to feel disoriented consistently during exercise, despite adjustments, or if you start to feel disoriented outside of exercise, consult a doctor.

Overexertion

When you are exercising beyond your limits, or if you are just starting to exercise and are out of shape, your heart and lungs may not be able to get oxygen to your muscles and brain fast enough. This can lead to being disoriented, dizziness or nausea. To avoid overexertion, the American Heart Association recommends using the "talk test": If you can talk and hold a conversation while exercising, you are working at a sustainable rate. If you find that you are struggling to breathe or cannot hold a conversation, you are working too hard.

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Dehydration

A lack of sufficient fluids in your body can lead to disorientation, dizziness, confusion and a lightheaded feeling. Other symptoms can include a dry mouth, fatigue, thirst and dark-colored urine. The symptoms can be made worse with exercise or can be caused by too much sweating during exercise. To avoid dehydration, Mayo Clinic recommends starting to hydrate the day before you exercise. Drink 1 to 3 cups of water right before you exercise, and liberal amounts during and after. Clear urine is a good sign of proper hydration.

Low Blood Sugar

Glucose, or blood sugar, is the body's primary source of fuel and primarily comes from the consumption of food. If you don't have enough glucose, your blood sugar will be low --- a condition known as hypoglycemia. In addition to feeling disoriented or confused, other symptoms of hypoglycemia can include blurry vision, irritability, fatigue, trembling, shaking and headaches. Eat a small snack no less than 30 minutes before exercising or a smaller meal two to four hours beforehand to avoid hypoglycemia. If you start to feel disoriented while exercising and suspect hypoglycemia, stop exercising and consume a small snack high in glucose, such as orange juice, a banana or peanut butter and crackers.

Considerations

If you find that you are still feeling disoriented during exercise despite taking precautions, consult a doctor. Discuss any medications you are taking, especially if you are taking medication for diabetes or high blood pressure. These and other medications can have disorientation as a side effect. A doctor can also run tests to check for underlying medical disorders that could be causing the problem. Whenever you feel disoriented during exercise, stop what you are doing and rest. If you continue to feel disoriented, despite self-care measures, seek immediate medical attention.

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References

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