By Joon Nah BScPT
Certified Vestibular Physiotherapist
updated July 19, 2020
Exercise can help with vestibular problems and dizziness. However, a membership at a gym or fitness centre can be a challenging experience. Loud music, bright flashing lights and fast moving people are just some of the obstacles deterring us from working out properly or regularly.Here are some tips that can help.
1. Find the right fitness centre.
Gyms are all different. Most allow prospective clients to have a free trial membership, even up to 1 week in duration. As loud music can be disturbing to our vestibular system, try to find a facility where noise is less prominent. For example, the YMCA near our clinic does not play any music at all. Some gyms have several different work-out areas and often a stretching area can be quite noise-free.
2. Modify when, how and where.
Adjust your schedule so that you fit your work-outs in during the off-peak hours. With so many limbs and bodies moving about, it can give our visual field a pretty good work-out as well. If you’re unsure, then ask another gym member or someone on staff.
Use machines or equipment that faces walls rather than in toward the centre of the gym. Try to focus on a spot in front of you as you do your exercises and don’t look at the other members.
Don’t hold your breath as you exert; breath out. This increase in internal pressure (valsalva) can increase pressure around your vestibular organ and temporarily limit precious blood flow to it as well.
Try to perform more exercises that keep your head upright in neutral position. For example, movements that work your chest muscles can be performed on your back, sitting on a machine, and lying face-down (i.e. push ups).
Try wearing ear plugs, or if this is uncomfortable, use foam covered headphones that are not plugged in.
Wear a hat that has a brim to limit your visual field and the distractions above, and that allow you to focus on what’s in front of you. Place a towel over your cardio machine’s screen to eliminate the flashing bright LED lights.
Vary your exercises depending on how you feel. For example on days when you feel off, perform dumbbell bicep curls on a chair or bench, and on days when you are feeling better, try it sitting on an exercise ball or standing on a Bosu Ball.
3. Talk with your gym
A good business always looks to try and accommodate their patrons, especially those with some type of physical impairment. Ask to speak with someone about your issues with some suggestions you have about changes. They may consider shutting off music in pre-determined “quiet” zones or turning some equipment (machines or cardio) to face more walls.You may be surprised at how willing management can be to try and help.
Your vestibular system can be very easily affected by changes in blood flow, both for the better and worse. So, exercise can be an extremely effective way of increasing overall body circulation and local blood flow, allowing optimal vestibular functioning and improved rates of recovery. Not to mention the positive effects on balance and coordination that go hand in hand with exercise.
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