If you’re anything like me, this time of year is brutal on my head. Temperature and pressure changes wreak havoc for my headaches. And I have tried many things for my headaches over the years. One thing I often do is: MOVE!
Now, the relationship between exercise and migraines is quixotic. Science says that exercise, by promoting the regular release of endorphins, the body’s natural pain controllers, should help ease the frequency and severity of migraines. Many migraineurs claim that their attacks are triggered by physical exertion. Who is right?
Like many other aspects of migraines, the answer is contradictory because both groups are correct. Strenuous exercise can cause migraines in people who are prone to them. Regular exercise can reduce the frequency and severity of migraine headaches as well as increasing overall health and wellness.
A meta-analysis of studies on exercise and migraine published in February 2019 in The Journal of Headache and Pain found that aerobic exercises – walking, jogging, running, cycling, cross-training – were associated with a decrease in migraine attack duration and pain and that moderate-intensity exercise is a plus for migraine patients
Regular exercise reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases like high cholesterol and high blood pressure. It also helps improve sleep patterns and relieves stress. All of which can subtly affect the likelihood of migraines.
Migraineurs who gave up exercise as a headache trigger should try again. Common exercise migraine triggers are things like:
- Not eating properly before exercising and causing a dramatic drop in blood sugar to occur
- Not taking in enough fluid and becoming dehydrated while exercising
- Starting a new eating plan and a new exercise plan at the same time
- Attempting strenuous exercise without warming up properly
To pinpoint exertion-related migraine triggers, migraineurs should keep an exercise log. It should include specific information:
- Time of day when exercising
- Last meal prior to workout
- Fluid intake
- Medication details
- Whether or not a headache occurred during or after the workout
The best type of exercise for migraineurs is regular, moderate aerobic exercise, at least 30 minutes three times a week. Recommended activities include:
- Power Walking
Any new exercise plan needs at least six weeks to discover if it has a beneficial effect on migraines.
I know far too well that when you have a headache – you just want to shut your eyes and sit in the dark. But – I urge you to try exercising. For me – it makes a huge difference!