Sedentary Lifestyle and Migraine: Exploring the Connection



A sedentary lifestyle, characterized by prolonged periods of sitting and a lack of physical activity, has been found to have a significant impact on overall health. Migraine attacks, debilitating headaches characterized by intense throbbing pain and accompanying symptoms, are also prevalent in today’s society. This article delves into the potential link between a sedentary lifestyle and migraine attacks, shedding light on the factors contributing to migraine attacks and the effects of physical inactivity on their occurrence.

Factors Contributing to Migraines

Migraines are influenced by various factors, including:

  • Genetic predisposition and family history: Individuals with a family history of migraine attacks are more likely to experience migraine attacks themselves.
  • Hormonal changes and imbalances: Fluctuations in hormones, such as those that occur during menstruation or menopause, can trigger migraine attacks in some individuals.
  • Environmental triggers and lifestyle factors: Certain environmental factors, such as bright lights, loud noises, or strong smells, can act as triggers for migraine attacks. Additionally, lifestyle factors such as stress, lack of sleep, or dietary choices can contribute to migraine attacks.

Understanding these factors is crucial in comprehending the relationship between a sedentary lifestyle and migraine attacks.

The Effects of Physical Inactivity on Migraine

Research has uncovered a connection between sedentary behavior and migraine frequency. A study published in the journal Cephalalgia found a higher prevalence of migraine attacks in individuals with a sedentary lifestyle compared to those who engaged in regular physical activity. The study also noted that individuals who engaged in physical activity had fewer migraine attacks and reduced severity of symptoms.

Regular exercise plays a role in preventing migraine attacks and managing the condition. Exercise promotes the release of endorphins, natural painkillers produced by the body, which can help alleviate migraine symptoms. Additionally, physical activity improves blood circulation and reduces stress, both of which can contribute to migraine relief.

For example, a study published in the journal Neurology found that individuals who engaged in regular aerobic exercise, such as walking or running, experienced a significant reduction in the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. The participants reported fewer days with migraine attacks and a decreased need for migraine medication.

Sedentary Time and Migraine Triggers

Prolonged sitting and lack of movement contribute to migraine triggers. A sedentary lifestyle disrupts the body’s natural rhythm and can lead to imbalances in key physiological processes. Interrupted sitting, as seen in office settings where individuals take short breaks from prolonged sitting, has been shown to have an impact on glucose and fat levels in the bloodstream. These fluctuations in blood sugar and lipid levels can trigger migraine attacks in susceptible individuals.

Chronic inflammation, a product of a sedentary lifestyle, is also recognized as a factor in the pathogenesis of migraine attacks. Research suggests that prolonged periods of inactivity can lead to low-grade inflammation in the body, which may contribute to the development and frequency of migraine attacks.

Guidelines for Physical Activity

While there are recommended levels of exercise for overall health and well-being, there are no specific guidelines addressing the reduction of sedentary time. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week for adults. It is important to incorporate both physical activity and the reduction of sedentary behavior into daily routines for optimal migraine management.

Some examples of physical activities that can be beneficial for individuals with migraine attacks include brisk walking, swimming, cycling, and yoga. These activities can be customized based on individual preferences and fitness levels. It is important to start gradually and listen to your body, making adjustments as needed.

Understanding the Relationship between Migraine and Exercise

Current research explores the activity levels among individuals with migraine attacks. A study published in the journal Headache found that migraine patients tend to have lower levels of physical activity compared to individuals without migraine attacks. However, there is significant variability in activity levels and sedentary behavior patterns among migraine patients.

One factor that contributes to the perception of exercise as a trigger is the occurrence of exercise-induced migraine attacks. While it is true that some individuals may experience migraine attacks during or after exercise, it is important to note that exercise-induced migraine attacks are relatively rare. The majority of individuals with migraine attacks can engage in regular physical activity without triggering an attack.

Identifying Barriers and Facilitators to Physical Activity

Several barriers to physical activity among migraine patients have been reported. These include fear of triggering migraine attacks, lack of motivation, fatigue, and concerns about exacerbating symptoms. However, it is essential to address these barriers and promote physical activity among migraine patients.

Healthcare providers play a crucial role in addressing these barriers and facilitating physical activity in migraine management. They can provide education about the benefits of exercise, help patients identify suitable activities, and develop personalized plans that take into account individual triggers and preferences.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can a sedentary lifestyle make migraine attacks worse?

A sedentary lifestyle can increase the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. Regular physical activity can help reduce the occurrence of migraine attacks.

2. Is it safe to exercise during a migraine attack?

It is generally recommended to avoid intense physical activity during a migraine attack. However, light exercises such as gentle stretching or yoga may provide relief for some individuals.

3. How long should each exercise session be for migraine prevention?

To prevent migraine attacks, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on most days of the week. You can break it into shorter sessions if needed.

4. Can physical activity act as a trigger for migraine attacks?

While exercise-induced migraine attacks can occur, they are relatively rare. Most individuals with migraine attacks can engage in regular physical activity without triggering an attack.

5. What are some low-impact exercises that can help with migraine attacks?

Low-impact exercises such as swimming, walking, and cycling are generally well-tolerated by individuals with migraine attacks and can help reduce the frequency of attacks.

6. How can I motivate myself to exercise despite having migraine attacks?

Finding activities that you enjoy and making exercise a part of your daily routine can help increase motivation. Start with small achievable goals and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts.

7. Can physical activity reduce the need for migraine medication?

Regular physical activity has been shown to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks, potentially leading to a decreased need for migraine medication. However, always consult with your healthcare provider before making any changes to your medication regimen.

8. Are there any specific exercises that should be avoided with migraine attacks?

High-impact activities, such as running or intense aerobics, may trigger migraine attacks in some individuals. It is best to start with low-impact exercises and observe how your body responds.

9. Can physical activity help reduce migraine-related stress?

Engaging in regular physical activity can help reduce stress levels, which is a common trigger for migraine attacks. Exercise promotes the release of endorphins, which have a positive impact on mood.

10. How can healthcare providers help migraine patients overcome barriers to physical activity?

Healthcare providers can provide guidance, support, and personalized plans to help migraine patients overcome barriers to physical activity. They can address concerns, prescribe appropriate exercises, and monitor progress.


Understanding the potential connection between a sedentary lifestyle and migraine attacks is essential for effective migraine management. Incorporating regular physical activity and reducing sedentary behavior can contribute to the prevention and management of migraine attacks. Patients and healthcare providers must collaborate to identify individual barriers and facilitate physical activity in migraine patients.


Jenny from Migraine Buddy

You Will Also Like

Back to Blog

Leave your mobile to get a link to download the app