Do Your Hands or Feet Go Numb During Exercise? Here’s Why!

Experience Life
by Experience Life
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Do Your Hands or Feet Go Numb During Exercise? Here’s Why!

Q | Sometimes when I exercise my hands and feet go numb. What’s up?

A | Numbness in the extremities during certain movements is generally the result of continuous pressure on a nerve, which can inhibit pathways to and from the brain. Two places it often occurs: the bike and the elliptical machine.

“For cyclists, the most common cause is when one of the nerves of the hand gets compressed as the hands rest on the bar,” says Doug Dengerink, DO, a sports-medicine physician in San Diego, CA.

Dengerink suggests frequently adjusting your grip, wearing padded gloves, and possibly raising the handlebar height. A bar that is too low can cause you to put too much pressure on your wrists or hands.

If you’re experiencing pain in other parts of your body, such as your neck or shoulders, bike fit and other bio-mechanical issues could be to blame. Consult a bicycle-fitting expert to make sure your bike is set up properly for your body. In some cases, an adjustment of just a quarter of an inch can make a dramatic improvement.

On the elliptical machine, numbness can occur because your feet stay relatively fixed for an extended period of time. “Since you don’t push off the ground or stride in the same way as when walking or running, your shoelaces don’t get stretched and your feet swell slightly, which can lead to compression of nerves in the feet,” Dengerink says.

He suggests making sure your laces are not too tight, altering the shoe-lacing pattern, adding padding to the tongue area of footwear, adjusting your foot position occasionally, or changing pedaling direction.

To prevent numbness, the American Council on Exercise recommends that you do not stay on the balls of your feet while on the elliptical machine, but instead perform a rolling motion from the balls of your feet to your heels as you move.

If you experience hand or foot numbness that doesn’t go away when you stop the activity, consult a chiropractor or a physician.

About the Author

Experience Life
Experience Life

Experience Life is the best whole-life health and fitness magazine you’ve never heard of — until now!  We aim to empower people to live their best, most authentic lives, and challenge the conventions of hype, gimmicks, and superficiality in favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. No six-pack-abs-in-five-day promises. Just real, in-depth coverage of health, fitness, nutrition, and optimal-living topics to help you reach your healthy-living goals. Visit ExperienceLife.com to explore 10-plus years of archives, to sign up for our newsletters, and to subscribe to our print or digital editions. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

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26 responses to “Do Your Hands or Feet Go Numb During Exercise? Here’s Why!”

  1. Avatar Jenn Johnson says:

    it happens no matter what exercise i do 🙁

  2. Avatar Angela Faulk says:

    It happens to my feet when I walk on the treadmill. In my hands when I do Leslie Sansone dvd’s. Always wondered about it.

  3. Avatar Tornado_js says:

    Happens to me just walking for exercise.

    • Avatar Justin says:

      me too

      • Avatar Fiona says:

        Me too – only just started at about the 5km mark of my walk, hands numb and fingers like sausages! Glad to know I’m not alone

        • Avatar Robin J says:

          Try lightly holding (loose fist) a small rock, etc in each hand while you are walking. Strange but is does work, No more sausage fingers!

        • Avatar Shady Lady says:

          This comment is a little late…but what I found is that happened to me b/c I held my arms and hands down when I walked. After a while, the blood can pool in your fingers b/c it’s too hard to return it UP the arms. What can help is lifting your arms occasionally or bending your elbows.

        • Avatar Julianna says:

          EXACTLY! I mean I thought it was sorta cool, but then I knew it wasn’t too average what I was doing when I consulted my friends who ran along with me.

  4. Avatar PrincesaWithAmmo says:

    Hmm. Guess ill try raising the bar next time i do spin.. yay 🙂

  5. Avatar Garry says:

    dont see a chiropractor…physical therapists are much better.

  6. Avatar Pam says:

    I am sidelined with a knee blip from too much running too many days in a row for months. I am eating the same good as well as the same amount when I was running six to nine miles daily because I also lift weights and my appetite is good. However, I’m getting crazed about my pants feeling more snug. I don’t believe I was over eating before. I thought muscle mass increased metabolism but I guess I was wrong. Should resume running little by little tomorrow. Does anyone know how to determine if the weight is water or if I really need to cut back on what I’m eating? And….. If, even though lifting builds an appetite, if it’s okay to eat more when you do cardio but not strength training

    • Avatar Han says:

      My friend shed loads of excess fluid after going to have acupuncture. She got puffy and bloated during menopause and peed a huge amount for several days after treatment and went down a dress size. Also cried out some grief she had been carrying for ages… water retention can be stuck emotions. Might be worth a trip if you don’t mind needles… Otherwise EFT! 🙂

  7. Avatar Lady Robinson says:

    If this is happening too regularly (not necessarily due to position on exercise equipment) it would be good to go see a Chiropractor. 🙂

  8. Avatar John says:

    Hyperventilation will do it too.

  9. Avatar Murry says:

    take a big shit. always helps me

  10. Avatar Cathy Paper says:

    Good tips for foot numbness on elliptical machine. Thanks.

  11. Avatar Cooldrums says:

    I have been told this can also be a sign of dehydration. Remember to drink plenty while exercising. Isotonic drinks replace more in your body than just plain water.

  12. Avatar IronWannabe says:

    Another cause of numbness could be diet caused. Being deficient on B complex vitamins (specifically B6 and B12) and other nutrients such as vitamin C and calcium which are all needed as part of processing and using energy can have a similar effect. Numbness in fingers and toes which gradually spreads to to include hands and feet is effectively the body’s attempt to keep the working muscles fuelled so the less important areas have a deficit. I had this frequently when pushing hard on the bike – starting with the little fingers and toes and spreading up length limbs. Supplements helped a lot.

  13. Avatar J-Lo says:

    This article is right on time for me, thank you! I just started back exercising after packing on about 30 lbs in the last year when I took a new job that’s about 90% travel. I like the elliptical machine, but was alarmed yesterday when my left foot went “to sleep”. Good to know there’s a pretty easy explanation.

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