Why head pounding occurs during exercise?

Fact Checked

The sensation of head pounding during physical activity can be alarming but it is not always the result of a serious health condition. In most circumstances, dehydration can cause the head pounding sensation as well as lack of proper nourishment or fatigue.

If the individual is properly rested and was able to drink and eat properly before exercise and still ends up with the head pounding sensation in the head, a doctor should be consulted. The individual might have high blood pressure or another underlying health condition that causes the problem.


The body requires a certain amount of water to efficiently function. Water is also responsible for filling out the blood so that there is enough volume to maintain the proper level of blood pressure.

Head pounding
Structural issues that disrupt the flow of blood to the brain, migraines or even a tumor in rare cases might also cause the pounding sensation in the head.

If the body is not properly hydrated, the blood pressure can drop and the heart has to strain harder to promote the flow of blood. This can trigger the head pounding sensation especially during physical activity.

Dehydration can also trigger other symptoms such as dizziness, dry mouth, fatigue and diminished urine output. The best way to avoid dehydration is to ensure that the body is replenished with fluids before any physical activity by drinking 1-3 cups before. In addition, the individual should also drink an electrolyte-based beverage or water after activity.

High/low blood pressure

Even though dehydration can cause low blood pressure, it can also occur due to other causes. Medications for high blood pressure can also cause a drop in the blood pressure which works by thinning the blood to minimize the pressure in the vessels.

Equally, high blood pressure can also lead to the head pounding sensation or a pounding headache. In most cases, high blood pressure does not have any symptoms but physical activity momentarily elevates the blood pressure and increases the pressure in the vessels to trigger head pounding. There are various causes of low and high blood pressure and some can be serious, thus a doctor should be consulted.


Lack of glucose in the blood is called as low blood sugar or hypoglycemia. This is considered as a common issue for diabetics but also occurs if the individual is malnourished.

If there is not enough glucose, the body lacks its main source of fuel and could not function properly. This can lead to various symptoms such as headache, dizziness, confusion and fatigue. The individual will end up with the head pounding sensation during physical activity.

Other possible causes of head pounding

Even though low blood sugar, blood pressure issues and dehydration are some of the typical causes of head pounding during physical activity, there are also other causes such as the following:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Excessive intake of alcohol
  • Certain medications

Remember that exercise might only be an aggravating factor. Structural issues that disrupt the flow of blood to the brain, migraines or even a tumor in rare cases might also cause the pounding sensation in the head.

Important considerations to bear in mind

If the individual experiences the head pounding sensation in a consistent manner during physical activity, a doctor should be consulted even if there is no pain.

The individual should inform the doctor of any medications being used especially if he/she uses medications that thin out the blood. It is vital to get enough rest, rest before activity and maintain proper hydration to rule out low blood sugar and dehydration as possible causes. In addition, avoid consumption of alcohol and caffeine before exercise since these can contribute to the changes in the blood pressure.

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