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Exercising With a Migraine


Exercise is often blamed as a trigger for migraines. That fear of triggering a migraine will keep many sufferers from developing a fitness habit, which is unfortunate because they are missing out on a whole host of health benefits. Exercise will lower the risk of developing diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and obesity. Exercise will also reduce stress levels, reduce bad cholesterol, increase your energy and improve your quality of sleep.

But none of that matters if you've ever suffered from a migraine.

Not everyone who suffers from migraines will be triggered by exercise, so if you haven't noticed a correlation, thank your lucky stars and don't touch your routine. You may be surprised to find exercise might actually lessen your symptoms, as it stimulates your body to release natural pain-controlling chemicals called endorphins.

If you have found that exercise has indeed triggered an attack, it could be an easy fix. If you get a migraine attack during your workout, don;t try to push through, stop exercising immediately. It may not be the exercise itself that is the culprit, however, and with a few simple tweaks, you could be exercising pain free.

Your warm up.

During exercise, your body has a sudden demand for oxygen. Warming up before exercise slowly gets your body ready for that demand. Not warming up correctly could be the reason for your migraine. It is recommended you warm up for 5-10 minutes before every workout, but go for 10 or 15 minutes to really ease your body into it.

The last thing you ate.

Not eating properly before exercise will drop your blood sugar levels, which will cause headaches in anyone. Your brain runs on carbs. Carbs are your friend. Eat at least an hour and a half before exercising, leaving time for your body to digest the food so it has a chance to stabilize your blood sugar levels.

Drink up.

If you have not consumed enough water before and during exercise, you'll become dehydrated. When your body is dehydrated, the tissues literally shrink. This shrinkage will pull on the nerves behind the eyes and cause headaches. (This is also why you get headaches when you're hung over.) Make sure you drink water before, during and after exercise to stay hydrated throughout your workout. The more you sweat, the more you need to drink.

If none of that works, you just need to find a form of exercise that works for you. Studies have suggested that low intensity, regular aerobic exercise offers the most benefits to those who suffer from migraines. Avoid high impact exercises, like running or jumping. The jarring impact is more likely to set off an attack.

To find the right form of exercise that won't set off your migraines, try keeping a diary. Whenever you get a migraine, track the date and time, activity, last time you ate, what you ate, and how much water have you had that day up to that point. Soon, you'll see the patterns that will help you lower your risk of triggering a migraine or prevent getting them during workouts completely.


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Kelly Turner is a fitness writer and contributor, personal trainer and social media and marketing consultant. If she's not in the gym or behind her computer, she's lost, so please call the police. Contact her at or follow her on Twitter @KellyTurnerFit.

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