s: Lately, I’ve noticed that when I stand up or get off the ground in exercise, I feel light-headed and dizzy. When I checked my blood pressure, it was on the low side, usually around 85-90/60. Should I be worried about this in regards to exercise? Is there anything I should do differently?
a: This is a great question. While it appears that the concern most people have regarding blood pressure issues is related to high blood pressure, readings for low blood pressure can also be worrisome and worrying.
According to the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, a low blood pressure (also called hypotension) is a reading below 90/60 (120/80 is considered “normal” healthy blood pressure). Low readings may indicate that the force of your body’s blood flow isn’t quite enough to reach all of your vital organs, depriving them of the necessary oxygenated blood. This points to a possible situation that could be just as dangerous as developing high blood pressure. For this reason, it is important that you tell your doctor about your symptoms and your low blood pressure readings so that he or she can guide you regarding diet, lifestyle, and medications. Or they can assure you that you are fine.
Low blood pressure is usually not a concern for healthy adults unless it affects their daily activities, including the ability to exercise safely and comfortably. Low blood pressure is not uncommon among highly trained and fit athletes who train and compete safely throughout their careers. Once your doctor has assessed the severity of your low blood pressure, there are a few things to keep in mind that can help you continue to exercise safely.
The situation you described in your question is called “orthostatic hypotension”. When you change position suddenly, a drop in blood pressure occurs and can lead to dizziness, lightheadedness, or even fainting. When you go from standing to sitting or lying down and back to standing, the way the body pumps blood to the brain changes. If this change happens too slowly, the blood flow to your brain may temporarily decrease, making you feel dizzy. Although it is not uncommon, most people do not have orthostatic hypotension and can change positions without any ill effects.
Dehydration is one of the things that can cause orthostatic hypotension. It is important to drink enough water throughout the day, especially during hot weather and when exercising. In my experience working as a personal trainer and a bootcamp trainer, low blood sugar can also lead to dizziness, feeling as if one is about to faint, as well as nausea. This is why I insisted that my clients not exercise on an empty stomach; Even with bootcamp classes early in the morning (5:30 a.m.). It was also necessary for each person to carry their own bottled water to drink during the workouts.
Conditions such as diabetes and heart disease can be other factors that can contribute to lightheadedness and dizziness when changing positions. Some medications can also cause orthostatic hypotension. If you take medications regularly and feel dizzy when getting up from the floor, I recommend reviewing your prescriptions with your doctor or pharmacist.
Finally, the basic, easy-to-implement advice I give my clients is to get down to the floor and then come back in “stages” and pause 3-5 seconds on each stage before continuing. Down to one knee, then both knees, then both hands and finally on the back, etc. Repeat the process when it’s time to get up. Although it seems like an eternity, it works with almost everyone and makes it more comfortable and safe to exercise in different poses when more serious cases are ruled out.
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