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Migraine, Exercise, & 10 Simple Steps To a Healthier Lifestyle

We all know exercise is good for us, and research suggests it can often reduce the severity and frequency of migraines. However, exercise can also be intimidating – especially if it is a migraine trigger for you.

Fortunately there are simple changes you can make throughout the day to increase your activity level…without even breaking a sweat! Not everything will work for everyone, so it’s important to find what is best for you. Here are 10 simple tips to healthier lifestyle:

1. Walk more (drive less)

A recent study found that Americans barely walked half as much as participants from other countries. Take opportunities throughout the day to increase the number of steps you take:

  • Don’t take the closest parking spot. You’ll get a few extra steps in and may save yourself (and your car) from busy parking lot traffic
  • Walk from store to store in a shopping center instead of moving the car
  • Go for a regular walk – it’s a great way to spend time with family, friends, & pets
  • Make multiple trips – when taking the laundry upstairs or unloading the car, try making a couple extra trips instead of carrying it all at once
  • Buy a pedometer and set a daily goal for yourself (less than 5,000 steps per day is often considered sedentary)

2. Opt for the stairs

Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator….even if it’s just for one or two flights.

3. Use chores as a way to exercise

Cleaning the house, washing the car, and yard work are all great ways to stay active. Try doing more things by hand like washing dishes, turning the self-propel off your vacuum cleaner, and using a push mower.

4. Actively play with your kids and pets.

A game of hopscotch can burn 200 calories!

5. Sit less

Avoid sitting watching TV, folding laundry, sorting mail, or talking on the phone. Try pacing, standing, or sitting on the floor while maintaining good posture.

6. Make TV watching less sedentary

Studies have shown that watching TV is the leisure activity we spend the most time on, averaging 2.7 hours per day. Try using this time to improve your health:

  • Put away the remote controls
  • Get some stretching in
  • Use the “sit less” rule
  • For a more challenging workout, try lifting weights, squats/lunges, or sit-ups during commercial breaks

7. Increase your activity level at work

Many of us have jobs that require long periods of sitting at a desk or in meetings. Moving your large muscle groups every so often can help you feel better and stay energized throughout the day.

  • Try proposing “walking meetings”
  • Stand or pace while talking on the phone
  • Stand up, walk around, & stretch if you are sit for long periods of time
  • When sitting, maintain good posture to strengthen core muscles

8. Find a new hobby

Biking or hiking is a great way to enjoy the outdoors while staying active, but lower-intensity hobbies like gardening, bowling, and miniature golf will still increase your activity level

9. Cook more meals

Not only will you get the health benefits of a home cooked meal with fresh ingredients, you’ll also keep your body active while preparing the meals

10. Don’t make exercise intimidating

Going to the gym can be intimidating, particularly if it’s been awhile since your last visit or you don’t know how to use the complicated machines. Make it easy on yourself:

  • Start with short intervals (10 minutes) and work your way up.
  • Go somewhere fun. If the gym is overwhelming, walk at a park or a shopping center
  • If you walk on a treadmill, try increasing the incline slowly instead of increasing the speed.
  • Find a friend to join you and exercise together (throwing a ball back and forth, etc)
  • Try lower intensity activities, like stretching or swimming slowly. Once your body gets used to increased activity, you can try more intense exercises without increasing your heart rate as dramatically…and without triggering a migraine

Simple activities can help improve your health:

Tell us, are there small changes you’ve made to support a healthier lifestyle?

1 Bassett, et al (2010). Pedometer-Measured Physical Activity and Health Behaviors in U.S. Adults. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Volume 42 (10), pp 1819-1825. 2 Bureau of Labor Statistics. American Time Use Survey Summary, June 2011. 3 Harvard Health Publications. Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights.


  • Marwa Khallaf
    7 years ago

    it’s all physical activity and actions which improve life quality and performance.

  • Dawn A Marcus
    7 years ago

    Exercise is vital for good health — reduced risks for pain, heart disease, cancer, etc. About 40 percent of people own a dog. How about a solution to take Fido for a 10-minute walk twice a day? This gets you to about the World Health Organization target for weekly aerobic exercise. And what better walking buddy is there than Fido?

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    7 years ago

    Dawn, I wish more people would get a dog. When you’re bad they keep you functioning, even if that just means getting up to let them out – – and exercising! When you’re not Migraining they give you the acceptance, love and sympathy that not many people do… and it is unceasing. I love my dogs 🙂

  • Nora McCracken
    7 years ago

    I think this is useful even if you don’t suffer from migraines! A good reminder of how to keep the pounds off.

  • Linda Castellano
    7 years ago

    This article was very helpul since you have stated that exercising can be intimadating while you suffer with migraines.My doctors ask me all the time how much exercise to I do? I clearly say NONE. Because I am so afraid, I use to love washing my car, golfing, pulling weeds(Ilove yardwork) Now all I can handle is going to my Dr visits and food shopping(only if I have to)Everything hurts my head one way or another. But my New Years resolution is to get myself moving. I am going to stat walking(that can’t hurt)I love my neighborhood it is beautiful and if I could get my mind off the pain and focus on the beauty that surrounds me I am willing to try it.Oh I would love it if mt kids would come with me!(Wish me luck—Thanks, Linda.

    7 years ago

    Good luck, Linda! Let us know how it goes; walking is a great way to stay healthy. If you find that it is too much for you right now, try finding lower intensity activities like stretching or swimming (slowly) to ease your way into things. As your cardiovascular system gets used to the activity, you can work your way up to other activities…. hopefully without triggering a migraine.

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