The Migraine Workout: Minimizing Attacks With Exercise
The Benefits of a Moving Body
If you look at the scientific literature, you might wonder: What can’t regular exercise do? It’s well established that attention to fitness aids heart health, helps with weight reduction, strengthens, improves quality of sleep, and is an overall stress-reducer among many other things. And it turns out that migraineurs can also stand to benefit from a good regimen.
But how is physical activity linked with headache and other symptoms? It has everything to do with how the brain responds to exercise as well as what being active does for the body overall. Physical fitness benefits migraineurs in three major ways: 
- Releasing Endorphins: If you have runner friends, they may tell you about the “runner’s high” when they feel a kind of euphoria after running for some time. This is because the brain releases endorphins when you exercise; these are basically the body’s natural painkillers. Because of this, migraineurs that get regular exercise see reduced frequency and intensity of attacks overall.
- Taking On Stress: Exercise is also a healthy way to cope with stress, which is a trigger for many. When you’re active, the mind stops focusing on whatever is causing anxiety, and the body takes on the physical impact of being stressed. In one study, fitness and relaxation routines done regularly reduced incidence of attack. 
- Improving Sleep: Numerous studies have shown that the more exercise you get, the better the quality of your sleep. This means more time in deep sleep states that truly help brain and body rest. Like stress, lack of sleep or an irregular sleep schedule are triggers.
Clearly, migraineurs should put some effort into ensuring they get a good amount of physical activity and exercise.
It should be noted, though, that some migraineurs can actually get headache while exercising. This is usually due to blood pressure changes due to activity, though other factors like hydration can also play a part. Does this mean that migraineurs should avoid exercise? Absolutely not! Not only do the benefits of physical fitness far outweigh the risks, there are some things you can do to prevent this kind of attack. If you plan ahead, you’ll certainly see improvements in your condition.
So how do you go about establishing a migraine managing workout? How do you ensure headache doesn’t hit you like barbell? Here are some tips:
- Hydrate: As noted above, dehydration can play a factor in headache, so make sure that before, during, and after your workout, you’re drinking plenty of water. Don’t let your mouth get dry; as most exercise and fitness professionals can tell you, by the time you feel thirsty you may already be dehydrated. 
- Fuel Up: While you don’t want to exercise immediately prior to your workout, do make sure you’ve snacked about 1.5 hours before starting out. Opt for high protein foods—things like power bars or nuts—as these are excellent fuel sources for the body. It’s also helpful to plan meals and workouts such that they’re regular. Set schedules are a migraineur’s ally.
- Let Yourself Warm Up: Migraine attacks can also come on when the body experiences sudden, stressful changes. Whatever your exercise of choice is, make sure to spend some time stretching and warming up to ease this transition. If you’re a runner, it might make sense to first walk for up to 20 to 30 minutes just to get things going. For those that take part in resistance training, it may be helpful to lift light weights first.
A Plan to Aim For
There are numerous different types of workouts and fitness plans out there. In the end it’s up to you to find an activity you like to do. Generally speaking, make sure your plan hits three major areas:
- Cardio: Workouts that focus on getting the heart pumping and lungs breathing like running, swimming, or others. Try to get three significant cardio workouts a week.
- Strength: Exercises that emphasize building up muscles such as resistance training or weight lifting. Plans can vary, but typically you want to rotate between different muscle groups; alternate days that you focus on legs, arms, abs, etc.
- Flexibility: Activities that promote flexibility like yoga help prevent injury and boost blood circulation. They also have the added benefit of being a means of relaxation.
It should also be convenient to exercise; don’t get a membership at a gym if you don’t like locker rooms or it’s hard to get to. Know, too, that there are many resources out there to help you learn about fitness.
What you’ll see when you’re getting regular exercise is another means of managing migraine. Despite the sweat and the strain, there’s no doubt that fitness routines are worth it.
If you suffer from chronic migraine, the team at Migraine Treatment Centers of America can help. Employing the latest in technologies, as well as a patient-centric approach, these experts have helped countless people find real relief from this difficult condition. To learn more about what they do, call (855) 300-6822 today!
- “Effects Of Exercise On Headaches And Migraines | American Migraine Fdn.”. 2018. American Migraine Foundation. Accessed January 22 2018. https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/understanding-migraine/effects-of-exercise-on-headaches-and-migraines/.
- Varkey, Emma, Åsa Cider, Jane Carlsson, and Mattias Linde. 2011. “Exercise As Migraine Prophylaxis: A Randomized Study Using Relaxation And Topiramate As Controls”. Cephalalgia31 (14): 1428-1438. SAGE Publications. doi:10.1177/0333102411419681.