Migraine and Exercise: Identifying the Best Activities for Sufferers

Migraine and Exercise: Identifying the Best Activities for Sufferers


As someone who has personally experienced migraine attacks, I understand the importance of finding the right activities for migraine relief. Exercise has been shown to have numerous benefits for migraine sufferers, including improved blood circulation, release of endorphins (natural painkillers and mood boosters), and overall reduction in the frequency and intensity of migraine attacks.

Benefits of exercise for migraine sufferers

Exercise offers several benefits for those who suffer from migraine attacks. Firstly, it improves blood circulation and oxygen flow, which can help reduce the frequency and intensity of migraine attacks. Additionally, exercise releases endorphins, which act as natural painkillers and mood boosters, promoting a sense of well-being and reducing stress levels.

For example, a study published in the Cephalalgia journal found that regular aerobic exercise was associated with a significant decrease in the frequency and intensity of migraine attacks. Participants who engaged in moderate-intensity exercise for at least 40 minutes three times a week reported fewer migraine attacks compared to those who did not exercise.

Considerations before starting an exercise routine

Prior to beginning an exercise routine, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider. They can provide guidance based on individual triggers and limitations. Gradually increasing the intensity and duration of exercise is also recommended to minimize the risk of triggering migraine attacks.

Understanding your personal triggers is an essential consideration. For example, if loud noises or bright lights trigger your migraine attacks, it may be best to exercise in a quiet, dimly lit environment. By being aware of your triggers, you can avoid potential migraine triggers during your exercise routine.

Recommended exercises for migraine relief

1. Low-impact cardio activities

Low-impact cardio exercises are gentle on the body while still providing benefits for migraine relief. Walking, swimming, and cycling are great options as they promote blood circulation, increase oxygen flow, and engage large muscle groups without placing excessive strain on the body.

For example, swimming is particularly beneficial for migraine sufferers because it combines the benefits of cardiovascular exercise with a low-impact, soothing environment. The buoyancy of water can help reduce pressure on joints and muscles, providing an overall relaxing experience.

2. Yoga and tai chi

Yoga and tai chi are well-known for their stress-reducing properties. These mind-body practices help enhance relaxation and can be effective in managing migraine attacks. The slow, controlled movements in yoga and tai chi promote flexibility and mindfulness, reducing tension and promoting a sense of calm.

One example of a yoga pose that can provide relief is Child’s Pose. This posture gently stretches the muscles of the back, shoulders, and neck, releasing tension and promoting relaxation. Deep breathing during this pose can further enhance its benefits.

3. Strength training with proper form

Strength training, when done with proper form and technique, can be beneficial for migraine sufferers. By focusing on core and upper body exercises, strength training can help improve posture and reduce muscle tension, which are common triggers for migraine attacks.

An example of a core exercise that can be beneficial for migraine relief is the plank. The plank helps strengthen the muscles in the abdominal region and back, improving overall posture and reducing tension in the neck and shoulders.

4. Stretching and flexibility exercises

Stretching and flexibility exercises can significantly relieve tension in the neck and shoulders, which are commonly associated with migraine attacks. Incorporating neck and shoulder stretches into a daily routine, as well as practicing relaxation-enhancing yoga poses, can provide much-needed relief.

For example, the neck roll exercise can help alleviate tension. Gently roll your head from side to side, allowing the weight of your head to guide the movement. This exercise can help release tension in the neck and promote relaxation.

5. Mindfulness exercises

Mindfulness exercises such as meditation and deep breathing techniques have been shown to reduce stress and improve overall well-being. Engaging in regular mindfulness practices can help manage migraine triggers and promote relaxation.

A simple deep breathing technique involves inhaling slowly through the nose, filling the lungs, and exhaling slowly through the mouth. Deep breathing exercises can be done anytime and anywhere, providing instant relaxation and relief from migraine symptoms.

Monitoring and tracking during exercise

It is important to keep a journal and record exercise sessions and migraine patterns. By noting the intensity, duration, and any identified triggers, individuals can track their progress and make any necessary adjustments to their exercise routine.

For example, keeping a record of exercise frequency and duration can help identify patterns. If you notice migraine attacks often occur after intense workouts, you may want to consider reducing the intensity or duration of your exercise sessions.

Case studies of exercises that worked

Personal stories of individuals finding relief through specific exercises can be inspiring and helpful for other migraine sufferers. These case studies can provide detailed accounts of exercise routines, frequency, and the results obtained, giving valuable insight into effective strategies for managing migraine attacks.

For instance, Sarah, a migraine sufferer, found relief through regular yoga practice. By incorporating various yoga poses and deep breathing techniques into her routine, she experienced a significant reduction in the frequency and intensity of her migraine attacks.

Precautions and modifications during migraine attacks

It is crucial to recognize warning signs and stop exercising during a migraine attack. Relaxation techniques can be employed to manage pain during an attack, and individuals may need to adjust their exercise routine based on the severity of their migraine attacks.

Listening to your body is essential during a migraine attack. If you experience any warning signs such as aura, nausea, or increased pain, it is best to refrain from exercising and focus on relaxation techniques until the migraine subsides.


Identifying the best activities for migraine relief is an important step toward managing migraine attacks effectively. By consulting a healthcare provider, understanding individual triggers and limitations, and engaging in recommended exercises, individuals can empower themselves to improve overall well-being and reduce the impact of migraine attacks on their lives.

Jenny from Migraine Buddy

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