Regular exercise is necessary for living a healthy lifestyle as it helps in reducing the risk of developing diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity etc1. Therefore, it is recommended by doctors as a lifestyle modification for a host of diseases including migraine headaches. However, some migraineur’s claim exercise aggravates their migraine headaches.

In this blog we will explore the effects of exercise on migraine headache.

Exercise to improve migraine condition –

There is not much evidence to prove that exercise can cure or alleviate migraine headaches totally, however, there are many suggestive evidences that prove benefits of exercise on migraine. According to a study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, aerobic exercises showed a reduction in headache frequency by approximately 40%2.

Moreover there are researches that also show beneficial improvement in other conditions that often accompany migraine such as anxiety, sleep apnoea, depression etc2.

Positive influence of exercise on migraine –

When we exercise, the chemicals and hormones present in our body go through a sea of change. Exercise stimulates our body to release natural pain controlling chemicals called endorphins. High levels of endorphin in the body makes you forget about pain3.

This means if you incorporate exercise in your daily routine, you can slowly reduce consumption of painkillers. However, before starting something new, consult your doctor to identify which type of exercise will suit you better.

Exercise as a trigger –

The International Classification of Headache Disorders has indeed considered physical activity as a defining diagnostic feature of migraine. However, it is not conclusively proven that exercise can trigger a migraine attack.

According to a research published in the journal Headache, researchers reported a 0.1% incidence of migraine occurring in people who exercised4. Therefore, and contrary to popular belief, physical activity may not play an important role in triggering or exacerbating migraine4.

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Choosing the right exercise for you –

If you are looking forward to start off with an exercise regimen, be sure to speak to your doctor first. Suddenly starting exercise without proper planning can do harm to your body. You can safely start with easy exercises such as

  • Brisk walking
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Dancing

Do remember to avoid strenuous exercise or a regime which you do not enjoy. Keep yourself well hydrated before exercising. Wear appropriate clothes while exercising and do not forget to warm-up your muscles before beginning with the exercise.

Maintain a migraine diary and note down your daily activities in it. If you find a pattern in your diary which relates migraine headache to exercise, consult your doctor for further advice.

Conclusion –

It is well established that regular exercise is good for the body. Therefore, try and incorporate one hour of exercise for 3 times a week in your routine. Even if it does not show positive influence on your migraine, the benefits of exercise on your other health parameters will be profound.

Summary –

Regular exercise is necessary for living a healthy lifestyle and reducing risk of several diseases including migraine.

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  1. Headache. 1992 Jan;32(1):50-4.
  2. Headache. 2016 Feb; 56(2): 357–369.
  3. Hawaii Med J. 2010 Mar; 69(3): 70–71.
  4. Cephalalgia. 2007 May;27(5):394-402.