Exercising with low blood pressure
Exercising with low blood pressure can be complicated, depending on how low your blood pressure is, and if you have any other ongoing issues. By having physiotherapy treatment for low blood pressure, you’ll be under the supervision of a qualified physiotherapist who is going to keep you safe as well as helping to ensure you are doing the right kinds of exercise for your condition.
One of the issues with low blood pressure is that some sufferers might not have any symptoms at all. Other patients suffering from low blood pressure might suffer from brief sensations of feeling dizzy when standing up too quickly. I think a lot of people can relate to dizziness when standing without necessarily coming to the conclusion they have low blood pressure.
At the other end of the spectrum of symptoms, sufferers of low blood pressure will have more concrete symptoms that include sweating, slow thinking or a brain “fog,” visual blurring, nausea and feeling light-headed or even fainting.
These symptoms can be triggered or made worse when standing for long periods of time, or when dehydrated or overheated. And they can be exasperated when exercising.
Why you might have low blood pressure. Blood pressure is classified as low blood pressure when the systolic reading is less than 90 mmHg. This is the figure that represents the pressure of the blood in the blood vessel when the heart is contracting.
Why does blood pressure drop during exercise?
When you stand up, your blood will pool in your lower limbs. To compensate, your autonomic nervous system will send messages to your heart to beat faster; this will cause your blood vessels to constrict. Your body doesn’t compensate adequately when you have low blood pressure.
While exercising, your muscles need more oxygen that normal, which means they need more blood pumped to them. This increased demand for blood, coupled with low blood pressure can decrease the amount of blood pumped to the brain, which causes the “brain fog” or dizziness.
Although doing exercise when suffering from low blood pressure can cause these effects, it shouldn’t mean that you no longer exercise. In fact, being fit will help your body manage having low blood pressure.
Every individual is unique, and consequently, you should look for guidance that suits your personal needs. Having said that, generally speaking, exercise positions where your heart is moved from below your heart to above your heart should be avoided. Additionally, Yoga can be difficult as the different positions require you to be moving your head above and below your heart regularly.
Exercises that are considered good for low blood pressure include:
- Lower limb resistance training
- Light weight-lifting
Avoid sudden movements
Intense or vigorous movements can make the symptoms worse and make exercising dangerous. When starting to exercise, it’s a great idea to start slowly and build up the intensity or speed gradually.
As dehydration will also make the symptoms of low blood pressure worse, more so during exercise, a good routine should include drinking one or two glasses of water before you start exercising.
Working with a physiotherapist will allow you set up and start exercising safely. They can work with you to make comfortable and to help you recognise what is happening to your body and why. For information contact us for a consultation.