Exercise is a very common, and not to mention healthy, way to burn off nervous energy when you’re feeling stressed.
In fact, research has shown that even just five minutes of aerobic exercise can lessen anxiety levels and help you start feeling calmer.
But what if you turn to beta-blockers to quell the physical markers of situational anxiety before an important presentation, job interview, or test?
Is it still safe to exercise?
As with most questions related to prescription medications, the answer is: well, it depends.
Your personal health history, the dosage, and a whole host of other factors can impact whether or not exercise and beta-blockers are safe for you and you should always check with your doctor.
However, for most people who are taking small doses of beta-blockers on an as-needed basis for performance anxiety, exercise is safe and is in fact, recommended by doctors for all the benefits to the heart, lungs, muscles, and brain that it provides.
Generally, our doctors recommend taking one 10mg tablet of propranolol one hour prior to your event. And chances are you aren’t fitting in much exercise within one hour of a big presentation or job interview anyway.
Still, if you plan to exercise on beta-blockers, there are a few things you should know.
How do beta-blockers affect heart rate?
Beta-blockers block the effects of epinephrine (adrenaline) on the body, lowering your heart rate and, with it, your blood pressure.
In the short term, exercise raises your heart rate. So if you’ve taken a beta-blocker prior to exercise, the medication may limit how high your heart rate can go.
Over time, exercise causes similar effects to beta-blockers, decreasing your resting heart rate and blood pressure.
How do beta-blockers and exercise interact?
There are two main risks to exercising after taking beta-blockers: dehydration, and over-exertion.
Dehydration is characterized by:
- Excessive thirst
- Diminished sweating
You should be alert for any of these symptoms. And always be sure to keep a water bottle nearby if you’re exercising!
Over-exertion is more likely in those who use a target heart rate to exercise. As we mentioned above, beta-blockers can limit how high your heart rate can go meaning you may not reach the target heart rate you normally would if you hadn’t taken a beta-blocker.
And it’s important you don’t push yourself more than you should.
In fact, doctors generally recommend taking caution not to overdo anything if you’re exercising while taking beta-blockers.
Warning signs that you might be pushing yourself too hard include:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Inability to talk
As with any prescription medication, trust your body. Speak with your doctor before you begin an exercise regimen, especially if you plan on taking propranolol first.
And if something feels off, tell your doctor.
You can start an online consultation today and learn if beta-blockers are right for you.
Reviewed by Dr. Alex Dimitriu
Dr. Alex Dimitriu is a Stanford-trained physician with dual board certification in psychiatry and sleep medicine. The included content is not intended to replace medical advice. Always be sure to discuss any prescription medications with your doctor.