How to Avoid Feeling Dizzy When Getting Off the Treadmill

Exhausted mid adult man on gym treadmill
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Feeling dizzy when you step off a treadmill is common, and there can be several reasons for it. This dizziness can be an annoyance, or it can be a sign of a bigger health problem. But you can usually correct it so you can keep up your treadmill workouts (even circuit workouts that include getting on and off the treadmill repeatedly).

Why You Get Dizzy

Quite often, post-treadmill dizziness is a simple problem with a simple fix. If you do feel dizzy, it's important to figure out why so that you can stay safe (since dizziness could lead to a fall or even a fainting episode). Consider these common causes.

No Cool-Down

Often when you feel dizzy after stepping off the treadmill, it's because you stopped too abruptly and didn’t give your body a chance to cool down. A cool-down after running keeps the blood flowing throughout the body. Stopping suddenly can cause lightheadedness because your heart rate and blood pressure drop too rapidly. Winding down slowly allows your heart rate and blood pressure to fall gradually and safely. To cool down on a treadmill:

  • After the workout portion of your run, slow down the treadmill to 3.5 mph. Jog slowly for 5 minutes. You should feel your heart rate and breath both slowing down.
  • Slow the treadmill to 3.0 mph and walk for three to five minutes.
  • If your gym has treadmill time limits and you can't fit in a 10-minute cool-down, walk briskly for three to five minutes before stepping off the treadmill.
  • After the cool-down, do post-run stretches or yoga.

Monitor your heart rate and don't get off the treadmill until your heart rate has slowed to 100 beats per minute or less.

Motion Sickness

Another factor is that your body has been sensing forward motion on the treadmill while the room around it remained stable. It's gotten used to that frame of reference. As when you're on a moving sidewalk or an escalator, it takes a moment to adjust to the change. When you get off the treadmill, you are back to the usual situation of your body moving through the room as it senses motion.

Most of the time people make this transition with only a moment of disorientation. But with exercise and other factors, you may need a little longer to adjust. Just as only some people get seasick, you may be more affected by this than others. If you go slower at the end of your treadmill workout, the change will be less abrupt and you may tolerate it better.

If you feel dizzy while you're still moving on the treadmill, try focusing your eyes on a stationary object (look away from the TV screen).

Dehydration

Another factor which can contribute to dizziness is dehydration. If you haven't been drinking water before and during your workout, make sure you boost your intake. This may be enough to alleviate your dizziness. Similarly, when and what you are eating before you run can affect how you feel afterward. You may need to eat a little more, a little less, or a different type of food before you run.

Medical Conditions

If you feel dizzy after running even after you’ve ruled out these other issues, there may be something else going on. Talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms. It's possible that you are feeling the effects of low blood sugar, anemia, high blood pressure, inner ear problems, heart disorders, or side effects from medications. This is a good cue to get a full physical checkup to make sure you find any underlying problems.

Treadmill Safety Reminders

Use that little dizzy spell to remind you why it is important to use the treadmill safely:

  • Always start at a slow speed before you get on to prevent being jerked off balance if it was set to start at a high speed.
  • Always attach the emergency stop cord so the treadmill will stop if you trip or become faint.
  • Ensure that the belt stops before you get off the treadmill.
  • Hold onto the railings when getting off the treadmill.
  • Ensure that nothing has rolled over to the area or been dropped that you might trip over.

Circuit Workout Safety

Treadmill sessions that incorporate intervals, different positions, or off-treadmill exercises can give you a great workout and beat some of the boredom that can come with treadmill time. But you need to be extra careful doing these kinds of workouts, especially if you experience dizziness on the treadmill.

Intervals: Use a pre-set workout so that you don't have to keep looking at the console, pressing buttons and making adjustments. Use good form during all segments of your workout; if you can't, lower your intensity, speed, or incline. Be sure to cool down properly and drink plenty of water.

Sideways moves: If you're doing a treadmill workout that includes side shuffles or other moves besides running or walking forward, make sure you slow the belt to a walking pace and hold on to the handrails before you change positions.

Off-treadmill circuits: Before getting off the treadmill to do weight or resistance exercises, pause the machine and make sure it comes to a stop. Have your weights or other equipment close by. If you keep your heart rate up by moving quickly into your resistance training, you may not experience dizziness. But if you do, consider swapping the treadmill for a different piece of cardio equipment (such as a stationary bicycle) for this type of workout.

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