Post-Workout Lightheadedness

You have just concluded an exercise session when you begin to feel dizzy and lightheaded as if you might faint. As your heart beats faster, you wonder if it is common to be lightheaded after a workout or a sign of something more serious.

Feeling lightheaded after exercising can indicate a drop in blood pressure. (Image: Hero Images/Hero Images/GettyImages)

Understanding why you get lightheaded after a workout and how to prevent and treat it can reduce this occurrence.

Lightheaded After Exercise

If you have not eaten in a long time period, you may feel lightheaded after exercise due to low blood sugar — a condition called hypoglycemia, according to Mayo Clinic. Intense exercise can cause your blood pressure to drop, which can make you feel lightheaded.

Also, if you do not have a sufficient amount of fluids in your system, your body may begin to sweat excessively. This sweat results in the loss of electrolytes needed to maintain fluids and causes your heart to beat faster — this causes you to feel hotter and potentially lightheaded.

Who Is At Risk?

Certain groups of people may be more likely to experience lightheadedness and other adverse effects from strenuous exercise. These include those with uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes, unstable angina, a history of heart attack or other serious heart conditions. If you have been sedentary for an extended period of time, take caution when engaging in strenuous exercise.

Eat or Drink

Eating a snack before exercising or a meal three to four hours before exercising can help prevent lightheadedness. Drink water before, during and after your workout to prevent dehydration, suggests TeensHealth From Nemours.

Post-workout, perform cool-down exercises. Spend five minutes after your workout by slowing your heart rate through slow walking and stretching. This time also reduces the amount of acid built up in the body's cells that were released during exercise. As a result, more blood is allowed to circulate. This prevents the drop in blood pressure that can lead to post-workout lightheadedness.

Treatment for Lightheadedness

If you do experience lightheadedness following a workout, lie down and keep your head level with your heart — do not allow your head to drop below your heart. This will help to restore blood flow to the brain, helping to reduce lightheadedness.

As you begin to feel better, drinking an electrolyte-containing drink to restore fluid balance or eating a banana or crackers can help to incorporate minerals into your body.

Vertigo After Exercise

While lightheadedness after a workout typically is not cause for concern, in some instances, it can indicate a more serious condition. For example, if you take preventive steps to reduce lightheadedness post-workout yet still experience it, seek medical attention. Your physician may recommend alternate exercises and perform diagnostic tests to examine your heart, blood pressure and lung function.

Lightheadedness can be caused by a condition called "benign paroxysmal positional vertigo," or BPPV, according to Cleveland Clinic. This condition involves the inner ear and occurs with sudden changes in your head position. Unfortunately, BPPV symptoms can last for weeks. But it is often fixed with a simple maneuver performed by a doctor or physical therapist.

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