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Exercise and Migraines: What You Need to Know

Exercise and Migraines: What You Need to Know Image
Emily Maurer

Medically reviewed by Emily Maurer, NP on September 1, 2020

The relationship between migraines and physical activity is a complicated one, and people’s experiences vary. That being said, there are still a few things that anyone who experiences migraines needs to know about how exercise affects their headaches:

The Benefits of Regular Exercise

Research has shown that regular, consistent exercise can reduce overall migraine frequency and severity — keeping your body healthy and in shape is always a reliable way to aid the fight against your migraines.

The endorphins naturally released during regular exercise can also help dull the pain you might otherwise feel during migraines, but physical activity during a migraine itself usually hurts quite a bit more than it helps.

Migraines and Strenuous Exercise

As helpful as regular, moderate, exercise may be, strenuous exercise can have the opposite effect. A particularly intense workout can easily bring on a migraine, as can the fatigue that may follow. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in good shape — any physical activity that pushes you to or beyond your limits can trigger a migraine. 

Exercising the Right Way

Just because some workouts cause migraines doesn’t mean you need to swear off physical activity entirely. When you do get some exercise, make sure to keep the following in mind:

  1. Focus on low-impact options

Workouts that involve repeated impacts, like jumping exercises or running on hard surfaces, can bring on a migraine through the associated physical trauma. Walking, lifting weights, or doing water-based activities bring impact levels down to nearly zero, reducing the chance that this happens. 

  1. Ease in and out

Your workouts should always begin with a warm up and end with a cool down. Starting too suddenly can have the same effect that a high-intensity workout would: stressing your body out to the point that a migraine is almost inevitable. Cool downs are just as important, ensuring that your body returns to a resting state of activity as gradually as possible. 

  1. Hydrate

Whether you exercise or not, high levels of hydration are a crucial component of warding off migraines. Contrary to popular belief, there’s no “magic number” for how much water you should drink in a day — just try to always have a bottle on hand and refill it regularly, drinking as you become thirsty.

  1. Keep your blood sugar steady

Maintaining the right eating patterns is just as important as hydration, particularly for those who regularly exercise. Not only do workouts decrease your blood sugar — putting you at risk for a headache — they can also interrupt your normal eating times. Always make sure to precede and follow any workout with a snack that keeps your food intake at normal levels. 

  1. Stay cool

You don’t have to be working out intensely to overheat, particularly during the summer months. Closely monitor your body temperature and perspiration levels: if either gets out of hand, take a break, cool down, and be sure to hydrate appropriately.

Migraines affect everyone differently, and ones that interfere with your exercise schedule can be particularly frustrating. Get in contact with one of our providers here at Nurx today if you’re looking for treatment options that give you the freedom to work out without fear of triggering a headache.

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