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Tips for getting moving again while dealing with migraine

Before chronic migraines I was very physically active. If I wasn’t giving it my all it wasn’t good enough. With chronic migraines I continued to exercise as much as I could, but slowly my exercise frequency and fitness level dropped. About a year ago I decided I wanted exercise back in my life. So I came up with some tactics to get moving that I want to share in case they can help anyone.

1. Set aside the time.

It can be exhausting to think of adding in exercise to your life when migraines interrupt and delay your plans. The most important thing I found is to set up the habit and start small. It’s not about getting an intense workout, but building the routine of moving your body a few times a week. At the start, you can use the time to simply meditate or stretch until you are ready to do something more active. As I built the habit of caring for my body, I was able to slowly increase my activity level

2. Find something you will enjoy.

Ask yourself what are things that will encourage you to get moving, and what will discourage you? I wanted something that would help me relax that I could do without a lot of money or equipment. I started with walking and restorative yoga. Restorative yoga is a great way to try yoga for the first time. It consists of gentle relaxing poses and breathing so you need not be in shape or flexible to do it. I made sure I looked forward to what I was doing so even on a day I wasn’t feeling my best I would still show up.

3. Tap into community support.

Finding others to talk to will keep you feeling motivated and accountable. When I started to exercise again I joined an internet support group to post about my progress, read about other’s challenges, exchange ideas, and ask questions. It was great to share with people who understood what I was going through. I felt like I was not alone in my journey. It’s also helpful if you are open about your goals with close friends and family. Let those around you know that you are starting a commitment to exercise so they can be part of the process and encourage you.

4. Honor where you are at the moment.

This is probably the most important item. It’s easy to feel bad about setbacks and slowdowns due to living with migraines. I sometimes felt jealous of yoga classmates who are more fit. But as I got to know people in the class better, I found that most had an illness or struggle somewhere along the way. Whether you are a marathon runner or an occasional walker, every time you exercise you build up a stronger foundation for life-long health and wellbeing. Recognizing and honoring your progress and effort can allow you to keep going rather than become discouraged. I also find that sometimes I can push it a little harder than I think!

Exercise has become a stronger part of my life again. I went from gentle walks a year ago to jogging this year. Though exercise certainly isn’t a cure for my migraines, I do feel healthier overall. These strategies really helped me get moving. Please let me know what has worked for you!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Anne
    4 years ago

    this has been one of the most frustrating parts of chronic migraine – not being able to exercise regularly. I love to exercise, and went from boxing, hiking and yoga to just being able to go for walks. I live in a guesthouse, so I take the dog that’s in the main house for walks. She likes it and I find it easier to find the energy when I know it’s not just for me. I am hoping to join a yoga studio next month, but I get scared that exercise will trigger migraines again. This sucks 🙁

  • MichaelW.
    4 years ago

    Any type of exercise is the last thing I want to do when suffering from a migraine, I can barely find the energy to do simple chores around the house. I do however force myself to go for a walk when I have a migraine, for some reason it seems to give me some relief. I put on some tight fitting sunglasses and a hat and force myself out into the fresh air. This past November I retired from more than 23 years in the military or should I say they retired me due to health issues, migraines being one of the health issues. Since retirement, my weight and the frequency of my migraines have increased and I believe my weight is a contributing factor in the increased frequency of my migraines. About two weeks ago I bought a Fitbit tracker and started a exercise program that fits my physical disabilities, I have started to lose the weight and my blood pressure is starting to come down and amazingly enough I have noticed a slight improvement in the intensity of my migraines. What I find interesting is that what may be a trigger for one person, brings some relief to others.

  • Jen
    5 years ago

    Exercise is a big trigger for my migraines. I have talked about it, what happens, and changes I have made in my training blog, The Sometimes Runner.

    I was glad to find your page. you can begin to feel very isolated with migraines.

  • Lisa Robin Benson moderator author
    5 years ago

    Thank you for sharing Jen!

  • Katie M. Golden moderator
    5 years ago

    Great article. I am struggling with the same thing right now as I try to get back to normal after a long Migraine episode. I get frustrated when I get back to yoga class or try to run and can’t go a far as I did weeks ago. It’s a constant battle but one that is important to start the healing process.

  • Lisa Robin Benson moderator author
    5 years ago

    Thanks Katie! I love your post about running to the zoo. You are pretty amazing and, though it’s frustrating, I’m sure you will make progress. I’m glad your long episode has come to a conclusion! Be well, Lisa

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    5 years ago

    Thank you Lisa, these are great tips!


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