Migraine and Exercise: How Physical Activity Affects Migraine Symptoms

Migraine and Exercise: How Physical Activity Affects Migraine Symptoms

The Potential Benefits of Exercise for Migraine Sufferers

Release of Endorphins

Migraine attacks can be accompanied by severe pain. One potential benefit of exercise for migraine sufferers is the release of endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals produced by the body that can reduce pain and promote feelings of well-being. When you engage in physical activity, the body releases these powerful chemicals, which can provide relief from migraine attacks.

Improved Stress Management

Stress is a common trigger for migraine attacks. Regular exercise helps in managing stress levels by promoting the release of feel-good hormones and reducing the production of stress hormones. By incorporating exercise into your routine, you may experience fewer stress-related migraine attacks. For example, a study published in the journal Cephalalgia found that individuals who engaged in regular aerobic exercise experienced a significant reduction in the frequency and severity of migraine attacks compared to those who did not exercise.

Enhanced Sleep Quality

Quality sleep is crucial for managing migraine attacks effectively. Exercise has been shown to improve sleep patterns by reducing insomnia symptoms and promoting a more restful sleep. By getting better sleep, you may experience fewer migraine episodes. One study published in the journal Neurology found that individuals who engaged in regular exercise reported improved sleep quality and a reduction in the frequency of migraine attacks.

Enhanced Overall Well-Being

Exercise has numerous benefits for your overall well-being. It increases energy levels, improves mood, and enhances mental clarity. By including regular physical activity in your routine, you may experience a reduction in the severity and frequency of migraine attacks. For example, a study published in the Journal of Headache and Pain found that individuals who engaged in regular exercise reported an improvement in their overall quality of life and a decrease in the impact of migraine attacks on daily activities.

Exercise as a Possible Migraine Trigger

Physical Exertion-Induced Migraine Attacks

Some individuals may experience migraine attacks during or immediately after exercise. It is essential to identify patterns and triggers to manage these exercise-induced migraine attacks effectively. By understanding your body’s response, you can make adjustments to your exercise routine. For example, if you notice that high-intensity exercises trigger migraine attacks, you may consider opting for low-impact activities instead.

Exercise-Related Factors That May Trigger Migraine Attacks

Several exercise-related factors can trigger migraine attacks. Dehydration is a common trigger, so it’s crucial to stay hydrated during physical activity. Exercising in extreme temperatures or engaging in high-impact activities can also increase the risk of migraine attacks. Additionally, hormonal influences, such as fluctuations during the menstrual cycle, can contribute to exercise-induced migraine attacks. It is important to be aware of these potential triggers and take necessary precautions. For example, drinking plenty of water before, during, and after exercise can help prevent dehydration-related migraine attacks.

Finding the Right Balance

Gradual Incorporation of Exercise into the Routine

When starting an exercise routine, it’s important to begin with low-intensity activities and gradually increase duration and intensity. This gradual approach helps your body adjust to physical activity without overwhelming it, reducing the risk of triggering migraine attacks. For example, if you’re new to exercise, you might start with a 10-minute walk every day and gradually increase the duration to 30 minutes.

Listening to the Body

Every individual with migraine attacks is unique, and it’s essential to listen to your body’s signals. Pay attention to warning signs and cues that indicate when you may be overexerting yourself. Adjust your exercise routine accordingly to prevent migraine attacks. For example, if you feel a sudden onset of head pain or nausea during exercise, it’s crucial to stop and rest.

Keeping a Migraine Exercise Diary

Maintaining a migraine exercise diary can help identify patterns and triggers. Record your exercise sessions along with any migraine symptoms experienced. This diary can provide valuable insights into what types of physical activity and intensity levels work best for you. For example, your diary may reveal that exercising in the morning tends to result in fewer migraine attacks compared to exercising in the evening.

Seeking Professional Guidance

Before starting an exercise regimen, it’s wise to consult with a healthcare professional. They can provide guidance specific to your individual needs and help tailor an exercise plan that is safe and effective. Working with a physical therapist or personal trainer experienced in working with migraine patients can also be beneficial. These professionals can provide exercises that are suitable for your condition and help you develop proper form and technique.

Exercise Strategies for Migraine Sufferers

Low-Impact Aerobic Exercises

Walking, swimming, and cycling are excellent low-impact aerobic exercises for migraine sufferers. These activities help increase heart rate and promote overall cardiovascular health without placing excessive stress on the body. For example, you can start with a 30-minute brisk walk three times a week and gradually increase the duration and intensity.

Gentle Stretching and Yoga

Stretching exercises can provide relief from tension and muscle tightness that often accompany migraine attacks. Incorporating yoga into your exercise routine can help relax the mind and body, reducing stress and promoting overall well-being. For example, you can try gentle neck and shoulder stretches or join a beginner’s yoga class.

Mind-Body Exercises

Tai chi, qigong, meditation, and deep breathing techniques are mind-body exercises that can help reduce stress, improve focus, and promote relaxation. These exercises may assist in managing migraine attacks and preventing exercise-induced attacks. For example, you can try practicing tai chi or qigong for 15 minutes each day as a part of your exercise routine.


Understanding the impact of exercise on migraine symptoms is essential for individuals with migraine attacks. While exercise can offer numerous benefits, it is crucial to weigh the potential benefits against the risk of triggers. By finding the right balance, incorporating exercise gradually, listening to your body, keeping a migraine exercise diary, and seeking professional guidance, you can enhance your overall well-being while effectively managing migraine attacks.

Jenny from Migraine Buddy

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