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Exercising & Blue Fingernails

author image Julie Boehlke
Julie is an avid outdoor enthusiast who loves to camp with friends and family. Julie spends her free time writing, working on her novel and brewing up new recipes of wine—her newest hobby. She enjoys scouring junk shops and antique boutiques in search of rare finds and one of-a-kind treasures. She collects vintage dishes and antiquarian books. Julie spends her days being followed around aimlessly by her most adoring fan—Mushu the pug. She ventures out on weekends to the remote trails and deep north woods of Michigan. Julie also enjoys exploring out of the way nooks and crannies along the great lakes shoreline.
Exercising & Blue Fingernails
Two runners are out of breath. Photo Credit: gpointstudio/iStock/Getty Images

Exercising helps to improve blood flow to vital organs and improve your cardiovascular health. If you are experiencing symptoms such as blue fingers, fingernail beds, lips or skin when you exercise or overexert yourself, this could be a sign of a serious medical condition. If you have a pre-existing medical condition which affects your oxygen levels, you may notice the bluish tint, which is called cyanosis. Consult a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment.

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If you are experiencing blue fingernails, you should seek medical care before beginning a workout. Blue tones to the skin could indicate a life-threatening condition such as a heart attack or embolism. It may also precede feeling lightheaded and fainting. Exercising may make the condition worse in life-threatening cases involving the heart and lungs.


Generally, exercise is recommended as a way to improve your health. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that healthy adults get up to 30 minutes a day of intense cardio exercise at least five days a week. If you have any type of medical condition that affects your heart or blood flow, you may experience a blue hue to your fingers or your nail beds -- especially during and after exercising. This is because your blood lacks oxygen saturation.


There can be several causes of blue fingernails that result from exercising. Some of the most common include lack of oxygen being pumped by the blood through the heart, abnormal hemoglobin, lung disease and heart disease, explains Medline Plus. If your heart is unable to properly pump blood into your bloodstream -- especially during a workout, you may first notice the bluish tint to your nail beds. Other medical conditions could also be the cause, such as pneumonia, asthma, pulmonary hypertension and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.


There is a relatively harmless condition called Raynaud’s phenomenon that mimics cyanosis. It is caused by smaller arteries in the extremities that restrict or limit blood supply, leaving behind a bluish color in the fingers. This condition is harmless. Exercising may help to force blood flow to the area and restore a normal color to the skin.


When your fingers, nail beds or extremities turn blue or purple, you may also experience other symptoms. Cold hands, fingers and extremities are common with bluish hues and you may also feel the area go numb. If you are experiencing trouble breathing, chest pain or severe chest congestion, you should stop exercising immediately and wait for symptoms to subside. If they persist, seek emergency care.

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