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The Correct – and Incorrect – Approach to Exercising with Migraines



Migraine and exercise can be a tricky combination, as some workouts can actually trigger migraine attacks while others can help alleviate symptoms and reduce triggers such as poor sleep. It is estimated that around 30% of people with migraine may experience exercise-triggered attacks at some point, leading many individuals to avoid certain physical activities altogether. However, finding the right type of fitness routine is essential as exercise can release endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers, and improve sleep and overall well-being for those with migraine. In fact, exercise is considered an integral part of the holistic approach to managing migraine, according to experts.

When incorporating exercise into a migraine management plan, it is important to take a slow and steady approach. High-intensity aerobic activities like running or cycling can deplete oxygen levels and lead to dehydration, potentially causing issues for individuals with migraine. Marty Fontenot, DPT, recommends knowing when to stop and not pushing yourself too hard during workouts. Keeping a log of symptoms and triggers can help individuals determine which exercises work best for them and which ones to avoid. Additionally, monitoring other factors such as sleep, diet, and stress levels can provide valuable insights into potential migraine triggers.

Strategically choosing exercises is also crucial for individuals with migraine. Strength training and aerobic exercise have been shown to improve symptoms in those with migraine, but it is important to start slowly and gradually increase intensity. Listening to your body and adjusting your workout as needed can help prevent migraine attacks during exercise. Incorporating more mindful and meditative exercises like yoga or tai chi can also be beneficial, as they can reduce stress levels and potentially decrease migraine frequency. Research suggests that a combination of yoga or tai chi with medication may be more effective than medication alone for managing migraine.

Overall, finding the right balance of exercise and self-care is key for individuals with migraine. By starting slowly, keeping track of symptoms, and choosing exercises that are gentle and mindful, it is possible to reap the benefits of physical activity without triggering migraine attacks. Consulting with a healthcare provider or migraine specialist can also provide personalized recommendations for incorporating exercise into a migraine management plan. With the right approach, exercise can be a valuable tool in managing migraine symptoms and improving overall quality of life.

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