Recent Blog Articles

Ask the doctor: Should I take nitroglycerin during exercise?

Updated: June 01, 2007

Ask the doctor

Should I take nitroglycerin during exercise?

Q. I have had a prescription for nitroglycerin (Nitrostat) for a number of years, but I rarely need to use it. Every once in a while, though, when I am on the treadmill, I feel my chest start to tighten up. I stop, take a pill, then continue exercising without any chest pain. The result is a great workout; the only drawback is a short-term mild headache. Some years ago, I read a column by a doctor who said it would be "ludicrous" to take nitroglycerin in order to continue exercising. What do you think?

A. My colleagues and I routinely advise our patients who develop chest pain on exertion (angina) to take nitroglycerin before they exercise in order to prevent an attack. Taking a pill in the middle of an exercise session is a little different. I tell my patients that if they have an angina attack while exercising to stop and take it easy for a few hours rather than getting right back on the treadmill.

To continue reading this article, you must log in.

Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.

  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »

I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.

Sign Me Up

Already a member? Login ».


As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.