Migraine and Exercise
One piece of advice a migraineur is nearly always given is to take regular exercise, however, Migraine and Exercise can be a double-edged sword. Physical exercise, either alone or in combination with other triggers has the potential to trigger attacks or make migraine worse. Some of the other triggers that may exacerbate migraine include:
- Lack of sleep – or poor-quality sleep
- Skipped meals – It’s generally recommended that a migraineur not go more than 3 hours in general without food, even if it’s just a healthy snack.
- Stress – even positive stress like excitement can be a trigger
- Change of routine – the migraine brain loves regularity so sticking to a workable routine can help to keep attacks or symptoms to a minimum
Even so, researchers are now finding evidence that moderate exercise can actually reduce the frequency and severity of migraine in some people. So regular exercise can be effective in preventing migraine. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1555933/
Indoors or Outdoors?
It doesn’t really matter whether you exercise indoors or outside, but outside is easier to access and is free, where as gyms (if we ever get back to them), can be expensive, noisy and bright, bristling with migraine triggers. So the local park, beach or just neighbourhood can be your gym. A lot of local parks now have some sort of gym equipment scattered around to encourage even the least enthusiastic of us…
During the current climate (covid and weather) exercise such as Yoga is best done indoors at home via online resources.
How can I exercise with Migraine?
First of all, choose the right exercise for you. It can be anything, jogging, walking, swimming, yoga, etc. Start off slowly but try to exercise for at least 30 minutes, 3 times a week. Give yourself at least a month to see if there is any benefit. Like with most treatments, it takes time to see if it works. Make sure you choose the right clothes for the exercise, you want something soft and stretchy for yoga, or good foot support if walking, or running.
There are some practical things you can do to help guard against an attack during or after sport such as:
- To be well rested prior to planned sporting activity.
- Eat at least 90 minutes before the exercise or sport, particularly foods containing slow-release carbohydrates.
- Warm up and down – It’s very important to warm down and wind down slowly as going from a lot of activity to nothing suddenly can in itself trigger an attack.
- Stay well hydrated before, during and after the exercise
- Rest following any exercise
If physical activity is a trigger for you in general, try doing something that has a low physical impact on the body and has smooth movements such as swimming (Sea swimming has been known to be very effective), rowing, or cycling. Even a short, regular walk can be helpful and not too hard on the body. It can also work wonders for your mental health, even for half an hour!
Physical activities and sport can really help with migraine over time as they get more oxygen to the brain. Exercise also releases endorphins – the brain’s natural painkillers – into the body.