Migraine and Lifestyle: The Impact of Sedentary Behavior and Physical Inactivity

Migraine and Lifestyle: The Impact of Sedentary Behavior and Physical Inactivity


Living with migraine attacks can be a challenging experience. As someone who has personally dealt with migraine attacks, I understand the impact they can have on your daily life and productivity. Migraine attacks can occur frequently and vary in intensity and duration, disrupting work, social activities, and personal well-being. Seeking effective ways to manage migraine attacks is crucial in order to lead a fulfilling life free from constant pain.

One aspect of lifestyle that can significantly impact migraine attacks is sedentary behavior and physical inactivity. In this article, we will explore the definition of sedentary behavior and physical inactivity, understand their link to migraine attacks, and discuss strategies to incorporate physical activity for better migraine management.

Understanding Sedentary Behavior and Physical Inactivity

Sedentary behavior refers to prolonged periods of sitting or lying down with low energy expenditure. Examples include sitting at a desk for long hours or spending leisure time watching TV or surfing the internet. On the other hand, physical inactivity refers to insufficient levels of physical activity or exercise. Both sedentary behavior and physical inactivity have been identified as risk factors for various health problems, including migraine attacks.

A scientific study published in “Headache” found that sedentary behavior was associated with a higher risk of migraine attacks. It is believed that a sedentary lifestyle may contribute to increased migraine frequency and severity due to factors such as impaired circulation and blood flow, increased muscle tension, and reduced release of endorphins (natural painkillers).

Lifestyle Factors that Contribute to Sedentary Behavior and Physical Inactivity

Several lifestyle factors can contribute to sedentary behavior and physical inactivity, which can exacerbate the risk of migraine attacks:

  • Occupational factors: Jobs that require long periods of sitting without regular movement breaks, such as desk jobs, contribute to sedentary behavior. Lack of physical activity during work hours can negatively impact overall health and increase the risk of migraine attacks.
  • Technological advancements: With the rise of electronic devices and sedentary leisure activities, such as watching TV or playing video games, people are spending more time in sedentary behaviors. Additionally, the blue light emitted by certain electronic devices, such as smartphones and computers, can be a trigger for migraine attacks in some individuals.
  • Environmental factors: Limited access to parks, gyms, or exercise facilities can make it challenging for individuals to engage in physical activity. Safety concerns in the neighborhood may also discourage outdoor exercise.

The Vicious Cycle: Sedentary Behavior, Physical Inactivity, and Migraine Attacks

Sedentary behavior and physical inactivity can create a vicious cycle with migraine attacks. On one hand, a sedentary lifestyle can trigger migraine attacks through impaired circulation and blood flow to the brain, as well as increased muscle tension and stiffness. On the other hand, the presence of migraine attacks can lead to avoidance of physical activity due to the fear of triggering an attack or exacerbating symptoms.

Although physical activity is known to have numerous benefits for overall health, individuals with migraine attacks often struggle to find a balance between exercising to alleviate symptoms and avoiding activities that may trigger migraine attacks.

Breaking the Cycle: Incorporating Physical Activity

Breaking the cycle of sedentary behavior and migraine attacks involves incorporating physical activity in a way that is guided by personal tolerance levels and migraine triggers. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Consult with healthcare professionals: Before starting an exercise routine, it is essential to consult with healthcare professionals, such as doctors or physical therapists, who are familiar with your medical history. They can provide guidance tailored to your specific situation and ensure that any underlying health conditions are taken into consideration.
  • Understand individual triggers and limitations: Everyone’s migraine triggers and tolerance levels are unique. It is important to listen to your body and pay attention to the specific activities or conditions that may trigger or worsen your migraine attacks. By understanding your triggers and limitations, you can make informed decisions about which types of physical activities are suitable for you.

Types of physical activities suitable for migraine patients

There are various types of physical activities that are generally suitable for migraine patients:

  • Low-impact exercises: Yoga, tai chi, and Pilates are examples of low-impact exercises that can help improve flexibility, strength, and relaxation. These exercises are less likely to strain the body or provoke migraine attacks compared to high-impact exercises.
  • Aerobic exercises: Walking, swimming, and cycling are examples of aerobic exercises that can be beneficial for migraine patients. These exercises promote cardiovascular health, improve blood circulation, and release endorphins, which can help reduce migraine symptoms.

Strategies for Combating Sedentary Behavior

In addition to incorporating physical activity, here are some strategies to combat sedentary behavior:

  • Incorporate movement breaks throughout the day: Whether you have a desk job or spend long hours sitting, incorporating short movement breaks throughout the day can help reduce the negative effects of prolonged sitting. Simple activities such as stretching, doing desk exercises, or taking short walks around the office can make a significant difference.
  • Use wearable devices and apps to track physical activity: Wearable devices, such as fitness trackers, and mobile apps can help you monitor your daily physical activity levels. These devices and apps can provide reminders to move, set goals, track progress, and help you stay motivated in leading a more active lifestyle.
  • Create an active environment at home and work: Consider using standing desks or adjustable workstations that allow for periods of standing and sitting throughout the day. Encourage physical activity among colleagues and family members by organizing group walks, participating in fitness challenges, or setting up home exercise areas.


The impact of sedentary behavior and physical inactivity on migraine attacks is significant. By understanding the connection between a sedentary lifestyle and migraine attacks, individuals can take proactive measures to incorporate physical activity and break the cycle. Regular physical activity within personal tolerance levels can help improve circulation, reduce muscle tension, and potentially reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. Promoting a healthier lifestyle that includes physical activity is essential for better migraine management and overall well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can physical activity worsen migraine attacks?

No, physical activity itself does not worsen migraine attacks in most cases. However, it is important to understand your own migraine triggers and limitations. Consult with healthcare professionals to determine which types of physical activities are suitable for you.

2. How much physical activity should I aim for each day?

The recommended amount of physical activity varies depending on factors such as age, overall health, and fitness level. Generally, aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week, along with muscle-strengthening exercises on two or more days.

3. Can I still engage in physical activity during a migraine attack?

It is advisable to avoid intense physical activity during a migraine attack, as it may exacerbate symptoms. However, gentle stretching or relaxation exercises may provide relief for some individuals. Listen to your body and rest as needed.

4. Are there any specific exercises I should avoid if I have migraine attacks?

Some high-impact exercises or activities that involve significant head movements, such as jumping or vigorous spinning, may trigger migraine attacks for certain individuals. It is best to consult with healthcare professionals who can provide personalized recommendations based on your triggers and limitations.

5. How can I motivate myself to incorporate physical activity into my daily routine?

Setting realistic goals, finding activities that you enjoy, and seeking support from friends, family, or fitness communities can help you stay motivated. Gradually increasing the duration and intensity of physical activity can also lead to long-term adherence.

6. Can I use mobile apps or wearable devices to track my physical activity?

Yes, there are several mobile apps and wearable devices available that can track your physical activity, provide reminders, and help you monitor your progress. These tools can be helpful in staying accountable and motivated.

7. Is it safe to exercise outdoors if I have migraine attacks?

Exercising outdoors is generally safe for individuals with migraine attacks. However, be mindful of extreme weather conditions, such as excessive heat or cold, which may trigger migraine attacks for some individuals. Protect yourself from the sun, stay hydrated, and take necessary precautions.

8. Can physical activity help prevent migraine attacks?

Regular physical activity has been shown to have a positive impact on overall health, including migraine management. While it may not completely prevent migraine attacks, it can help reduce the frequency and severity of attacks for some individuals.

9. Are there any precautions I should take before engaging in physical activity with migraine attacks?

Before starting an exercise routine, it is important to consult with healthcare professionals, particularly if you have any underlying health conditions. They can provide specific guidance and recommendations based on your medical history and current health status.

10. Can physical activity be beneficial for stress reduction and mood enhancement?

Yes, physical activity has been shown to have positive effects on stress reduction and mood enhancement. Regular exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood boosters. Incorporating physical activity into your routine can help improve overall well-being and reduce the impact of stress on migraine attacks.

Jenny from Migraine Buddy

You Will Also Like

Back to Blog

Leave your mobile to get a link to download the app