If you have migraines, you may have heard conflicting opinions about whether exercise makes your symptoms worse.
Exercise can have a bad name in the migraine community that is largely undeserved, says Dale Bond, PhD, professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Miriam Hospital and Brown Alpert Medical School in Providence, Rhode Island.
“For a small subset of people with migraines, vigorous exercise can be a trigger, but overall, the benefits of physical activity far outweigh the risk for people with migraines,” says Dr. Bond.
Regular exercise has been linked to a reduction in the frequency and intensity of migraines, says Jennifer Kriegler, MD, a neurologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.
A good rule of thumb: don’t exercise when you’re in the middle of a migraine attack as it can make the pain worse, says Dr. Warrior. On the other hand, when you’re pain-free, exercising can help fight off attacks by relieving stress, a common trigger of migraines.
Exercise also stimulates the release of feel-good hormones called endorphins and enkephalins, “our body’s natural pain relievers, or Rochester, Minnesota.
“If you’ve avoided exercise because [you worry about triggering] Migraines, it is possible that you are missing out on an overwhelmingly large number of benefits, ”says Gaz.
Research into exercise as a trigger for migraines is relatively limited, according to a review published in the Journal of Headache Pain in September 2018. In the studies examined, the percentage of people who had physical activity-induced headaches ranged from 9 to 56 percent.
The authors found that higher levels of physical activity were associated with a reduction in migraine incidence and lower migraine disability, leading to the conclusion that exercise programs appear to be more important given their “effectiveness, minimal side effects, multiple health benefits, and cost savings.” an important factor in treating migraines. “
Regular exercise can also help treat migraines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as it plays a role in regulating weight, reducing stress, and improving sleep.
Would you like to integrate exercise into your everyday life? That’s safe.
1. Choose an activity that you enjoy
Whether you choose brisk walking, jogging, swimming, or biking, you are more likely to stick with your routine as you enjoy the activity. Start with gentle exercises that don’t push your body too much, Gaz says.
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2. Gradually build up your stamina
“With regard to aerobic exercise, we would generally recommend that our patients start walking – it’s easy, it’s safe, it’s cheap, and it’s convenient – and doing it regularly,” says Bond.
As you become more comfortable with your exercise program, you can gradually work towards a higher intensity workout. Exercises like jumping jacks, hopping, running stairs, and boxing jumps can strengthen your muscles, bones, joints, and ligaments, Gaz says.
When you’re just starting out, limit your highly effective exercise to one day a week, he says. “Once you get used to these types of movements and activities, and are used to these types of movements, you can add another day of effective exercise to your routine.”
Your goal should be to move more and sit less. Try to do 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise and two or more days of strength training per week, the amount recommended by the CDC. The latest guidelines state that every little bit helps – walking up and down the office corridor, jogging around the block, or climbing stairs can count towards your weekly goal.
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3. Snack Smart to keep blood sugar in a healthy range
Because your blood sugar drops while you exercise, it’s important to have a source of energy while you exercise, Gaz says.
The American Migraine Foundation recommends eating about 90 minutes before your workout and consuming protein foods like protein bars and nuts before you workout.
If you get cramps, you may have been eating too soon before your workout, Gaz notes. And, according to Kriegler, not eating for too long can also trigger a migraine.
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4. Stay hydrated before, during, and after your workout
People who have regular migraine attacks can experience an episode if they’re dehydrated – especially while they’re exercising, Gaz says. “It takes about 64 to 80 ounces of fluid to replace the water we lose in our bodies over the course of 24 hours,” he says, noting that more fluid is needed if you exercise regularly and in yourself warmer climate lives.
In a study published in the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice in December 2015, researchers found that people with migraines who drank more water had less severe headaches.
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5. Warm up and cool down
Going straight into your routine without warming up beforehand can trigger a migraine, Gaz says. Instead, try to take a five-minute walk before you start running, jogging, or biking. If you’re doing resistance training, try warming up with light weights first, Gaz says.
After your workout, take a five-minute walk or do gentle stretches to lower your heart rate and blood pressure. “This can also help remove some of the post-workout sore muscles that come with weight training,” he says.
6. Stay cool while exercising
“If you’re overheated, it can trigger a migraine,” says Kriegler. Heat, moisture, bright artificial lights in the gym, and bright sunlight can all make a migraine more likely, according to the American Migraine Foundation.
“Exercise early in the morning, especially on hot days, to avoid heat and moisture,” recommends Bond.
7. Use correct posture when exercising
The wrong shape during exercise can put additional strain on the head, neck and shoulders, which can trigger a migraine, says Kriegler. An exercise specialist can help correct your form, Gaz says. You can also get tips from online exercise videos.
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8. Try sports or physical activity that is not aerobic
While there are benefits to more intense exercise, people with migraines can also benefit from exploring non-aerobic exercise, says Bond.
“For example, hatha yoga might be particularly effective for someone with migraines because it actually works on some of the mechanisms we see, such as neck pain and stiffness, anxiety, disaster with pain, and stress relief,” he says.
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9. Talk to your doctor about migraine medication
Ask your doctor about the timing of your medications and whether it is okay to take them before a workout. Certain medications used to treat migraines can affect your heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle activity, Gaz says.
Depending on the frequency of your seizures, medications may also be available to help prevent migraines.
Additional coverage from Becky Upham.