Feeling dizzy during or after exercise is something that should not be ignored. There can be several reasons why this can occur, so it's important not to assume that exercise itself is the culprit.
Low blood Sugar
Skipping breakfast and exercising in the morning can deprive the body of sufficient fuel to carry it through a workout. Eating a small snack an hour before the gym, will help keep blood sugar stabilised. Good options are:
A banana, apple or other fresh fruit.
A whole-grain bagel or crackers.
A healthy snack is especially important if you plan a workout several hours after a meal.
Taking on fluids before, during and after exercise will ensure the body is sufficiently hydrated. Adequate hydration is especially important if exercising in the morning as the body will be low on fluids after a nights sleep.
If we are not hydrated and then lose more fluid via sweating, it can effect both physical and mental performance in the following ways:
An Increased heart rate.
Impaired body heat regulation.
Reduced energy levels.
Increased perceived exertion, we will mentally believe exercise to be harder than when our bodies have enough fluid.
Guidelines suggets that 6-8 glasses of fluid per day are needed to keep the body hydrated. This will differ from person to person, depending on climate, activity, gender and size.
It's common for people to use different breathing patterns when exercising. This can lead to the body taking in less oxygen and not letting carbon dioxide out, resulting in light headiness.
During rest periods instead of puffing and panting to get the oxygen your body needs, try breathing deeply through the belly, using the diagram to fill and empty the abdomen with each breath.
With practice it's possible to synchronise breathing with the activity being performed. For example during cardio try breathing in for 3 seconds and exhaling for 2. Breathing in a continuous manner will increase nitric oxide, a gas that helps relax arteries aiding the blood flow around the body.
If you are struggling to control your breathing and it becomes too rapid, take a break until it is under control.
Are you exercising within your current fitness levels, if the intensity is too high the heart will struggle to meet the demands placed upon it, which amongst other things can lead to a feeling of... you guessed it... dizziness.
The target heart rate for moderate exercise is 50-70% of your maximum heart rate. To reach an estimate of this subtract your age from 220.
For example a 50 year old would use the following calculation:
220-50 = 170 beats per minute( bpm) maximum heart rate and 50-70% level would be:
170x0.50= 85 bpm target heart rate
170x0.70=119 bpm target heart rate
So the target heart rate for a 50 year old women performing moderate exercise should be 85-119bpm.
Another way to assess physical exertion is with RPE (rated perceived exertion) on a 0-10 scale, 0 being motionless, 6 being moderate and 10 is maxed out.
A quick way to tell immediately if you are exercising within a range that is suitable for your fitness level, is if you can still manage to carry out a conversation.
High blood pressure
When the heart beats it pumps blood around the body to deliver energy and oxygen. As the blood moves it pushes against the side of the vessels. The force of this pushing is blood pressure. There are various factors that can contribute to high blood pressure, such as diet, weight, activity levels and stress. When it becomes high it may cause damage and stretch the arteries, leading to strokes, aneurysms and heart attacks. Some people are not aware that they have high blood pressure, so if you do experience dizziness whilst exercising and it is not due to any obvious reason, it is vitally important for long term health to seek an opinion from a Doctor. Regular exercise can help reduce blood pressure by encouraging the heart to become stronger, helping it to pump blood with less effort, decreasing the force on the arteries, therefore lowering blood pressure. Those suffering with blood pressure issues should only perform exercise with medical permission and guidance.
When we exercise our heart pumps faster and harder increasing cardiac output, this action increases blood flow of oxygenated blood to the working muscles. Once the oxygen and nutrients have been used up by the active tissue, the blood must be returned to the heart for re-oxygenation, this is known as venous return.
When there is an abrupt cessation of exercise, the force from the muscle contractions which was helping to push blood back around the body to the heart also stops. This sudden drop in blood pressure creates blood pooling in the extremities and a disrupted flow of oxygenated blood to the brain leading to a feeling of .... dizziness.
It's vital to include a cool down to ensure you slowly return the heart to its resting rate. For instance if you are running, slow to a walk this allows the muscles in the legs to carry on contracting. This will aid the blood flow around the body and avoid it pooling in lower extremities.
Seeking Medical Advice
If you experience dizziness and it's due to over exertion take a break. If it's caused by dehydration or low blood sugar, take on board fluid and eat a small snack. If the dizziness continues and is accompanied by pains in the chest, jaw or arms - stop exercising, keep your head above the heart to ensure adequate blood flow around the body and call for medical help.