6 Tips for Exercising With Migraine

B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional
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Exercise is one of the single most important things you can do for your health. Benefits range from controlling weight, improving mood, boosting your energy throughout the day, combating health conditions related to sedentary lifestyle, improving your sleep, and even giving you a better sex life!

While we all know that exercise is good for us, finding the right way to incorporate it into your life when you have Migraine can be tricky.

For some people with Migraine, exercise can even be a trigger. In one study, 38% of patients with Migraine experienced an attack related to the exercise. If you find yourself in the group that often gets a Migraine attack after exercise, it is important to talk with your physician about ways to prevent those attacks and how to exercise safely.

For many of us, though, consistent exercise can actually be very beneficial and may even decrease the frequency of Migraine attacks. But if you feel lousy a lot of the time, it can be hard to get motivated.

Here are some tips for making exercise work for you, not against you:

  • Start slowly. Find a moderate form of exercise that you enjoy. It can be as simple as taking a walk, participating in a yoga or Pilates class, or shooting hoops with some friends. A strenuous workout could backfire and actually trigger a Migraine instead, so work up to a more rigorous exercise over time.
  • Stay hydrated. We know that drinking enough water is essential for people with Migraine, but if you’re exercising don’t forget to add some more water to your daily total to make up for what your body excretes in sweat as it tries to keep you cool.

  • Have a snack. Be sure to have a light snack before your workout to avoid dips in blood sugar that may trigger an attack as well.

  • Wear sunglasses. If you are sensitive to light, don a pair of shades before exercising outdoors or under fluorescent lights.

  • Exercise in moderate temperatures. Extreme heat can often trigger a Migraine attack. If it is really hot outdoors, as it often is during the summer months, consider exercising indoors or try swimming to keep cool.

  • Stay on top of environmental triggers. If pollution, pollen, or changes in the weather seem to trigger Migraine attacks, be sure to keep an eye on those things. You can use apps like the Weather Channel’s Air Quality Forecast map to determine if you should be exercising indoors that day.

If you have tried all of these strategies and still can’t seem to tolerate exercise, be sure to talk with your doctor. He or she may have additional suggestions or may need to rule out other causes for your exercise intolerance.

See more helpful articles:

Preventive, Abortive, and Rescue Medications - What's the Difference?

Teaching Others About Migraine - A Letter to Use

How Is Migraine Diagnosed?

Understanding the Anatomy of a Migraine