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Why Do I Get Dizzy While Working Out?

I woke up this morning at 6 am, drank my coffee, called my hu(man), and read a chapter of my book (part of my typical "COVID times" routine) and finally headed down to the basement to workout around 8:30 am.

I don't typically workout without eating something beforehand, but I had a particularly irregular weekend full of sweets and empty carbs (happy birthday, dad!), so I decided to do a little "detoxifying" for the sake of my gut. Not 10 minutes in, the dizziness set in - within seconds I had interrupted my workout and found myself lying on the floor, eating a banana.

This happens all too often with clients and within group fitness classes. In some cases, I've seen light headedness drive individuals to a point of not wanting to workout at all. It bothers me when something so simple impedes upon an individual's path to wellness. However, I would call you a liar if you said you'd never became lightheaded during an intense workout, or maybe from simply getting up out of bed too quickly.

My experience this morning left me wondering why there are so many varying instances that leave us feeling dizzy and lightheaded. NOTHING should stand in your way of pursuing a healthier lifestyle, especially if it's something as simple as getting dizzy.

Because it is so simple, and in most cases only happens occasionally and in short episodes, the underlying cause of lightheadedness is often overlooked. Here i'm going to cover three of the most common instances of lightheadedness during exercise and why they occur. I'll also offer a solution for each case.

1. Getting out of bed too quickly or standing up too quickly.

According to experts at the Harvard Medical School, these short episodes have a name, "orthostatic hypotension" - a long, fancy name for instances where your blood pressure momentarily drops too low. Blood pools in the large veins of your legs when you stand up, and it takes the body a few moments to reach equilibrium, allowing blood pressure to return to normal.

- Steps to take to reduce or prevent orthostatic hypotension:

a. Drink water upon waking up and before getting out of bed. Keep a water bottle on your night stand. The body may become dehydrated over night, and since you presumably don't prefer to drink a bunch of water right before going to sleep, (only to spend half the night running to the bathroom) drink a glass upon waking up. This helps activate digestion as well!

b. Engage the muscles of the legs or lift the legs in the air for a minute or two before getting up. This stimulates blood circulation away from the legs and back to the heart and brain.

c. Avoid sitting or standing in one position for too long. If you have a job that requires you to sit for long periods of time, set a reminder on your phone to get up and move a little to promote healthy blood circulation.

2. Lightheadedness during or right after exercise.

According to the "Go Ask Alice!" forum provided by Columbia University's website, the most common instances of lightheadedness occur when we abruptly stop moving during or after a workout that requires significant cardiovascular work. The key culprit here is, again, low blood pressure. The heart works to pump blood faster during an intense workout, ultimately delivering more oxygen to oxygen-deprived muscles. When physical activity stops, the muscles and heart stop working as hard, but the blood vessels remain momentarily dilated, ultimately causing a drop in blood pressure.

- Steps to take to reduce or prevent lightheadedness during or after a workout:

a. STAY HYDRATED. During an intense workout, take small sips of water often. This will help maintain healthy blood pressure throughout your workout.

b. COOL DOWN. Help your body return to a resting heart rate safely by taking the time to slowly reduce the exertion of the heart muscle, allowing it to return to normal gradually - instead of stopping abruptly. Just as your body needs time to warm up, it is just as essential to cool down.

** Note - Lightheadedness is caused by a lack of oxygen in the brain due to poor circulation. Poor circulation can be attributed to poor diet and not getting enough exercise. One of the only wrong answers here, is to stop working out altogether - that will only decrease your circulatory system's ability to achieve efficiency. Consult with a personal trainer, nutrition coach, or a registered dietician to discuss your options when it comes to improving circulation through exercise and diet. In more serious cases, consult with your physician.

3. Not eating.

According to experts at the Harvard Medical School, low blood sugar can be a direct cause of lightheadedness at any time. Not having a sufficient intake of glucose puts the body on reserve, including the brain. Without enough glucose, the body cannot generate enough energy to keep the body functioning at an optimal level. Have some healthy carbohydrates on hand if you feel like you might feel lightheaded - a piece of whole grain bread or some of your favorite fruit should do the trick!

 Most cases of lightheadedness have simple, preventative solutions. If these bouts begin to rise in frequency or intensity (episodes of fainting), consult your physician to discuss the possibility of a more serious problem.

All in all, your girl just needed to drink more water and probably eat some fruit before working out this morning. Your own personal fitness should be a top priority for your over all wellness and for the sake and wellness of your loved ones. There are always holistic and organic solutions at your fingertips, a little education goes a longggg way.

To your wellness, inner child, and peace of mind -


- Em

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