Exercise for migraines

To stay healthy, most people should engage in at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days. Exercise – which includes everything from walking to high impact aerobics to weight lifting to swimming – is recommended by almost every health organization. There is also some evidence that exercise improves migraines.

Numerous studies have shown that exercise has multiple health benefits, including:

  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Lowering blood sugar
  • Weight loss
  • Increase metabolism
  • Improve sleep
  • Improve mood
  • Increase energy
  • Reduce risk of heart disease
  • Reduce risks of some cancers
  • Strengthen bones and muscles

Exercise for migraines

For people who suffer from persistent migraines, many doctors recommend exercise as a way of controlling migraines naturally. Exercise is believed to help sufferers have fewer, shorter, less intense migraines. Because exercise can trigger migraines in some people, it isn’t a good idea to begin exercise in the middle of a migraine attack.

How Exercise works for migraines

Many researchers and doctors recommend that migraine sufferers keep a regular schedule, including exercising regularly. Exercise can reduce stress, help with relaxation and help balance many chemicals and functions within the body.

Exercise also causes the brain to release endorphins, which act as the body’s natural painkillers. Endorphins and exercise improves mood and decreases the body’s perception of pain.

The National Headache Foundation has the following recommendations for exercise:

  • Warm up before exercising
  • Make sure you drink lots of water while exercising and afterwards
  • If you have other migraine triggers, such as altitude or change in weather, be careful where you exercise

Studies of exercise and migraines

Many of the studies on exercise to prevent migraines are small and don’t compare exercise to other forms of treatments. Because the studies aren’t considered strong enough, the information on the impact of exercise on migraines isn’t conclusive.

Who should not participate in Exercise for migraines

Before starting a new exercise regimen, you should check with your doctor.

Exercise may make certain diseases and conditions worse, including:

  • Cold
  • Flu
  • Fever
  • Asthma, recent attack
  • Recent concussion
  • Sharp pains
  • Back pain
  • Osteoporosis

Pregnant women should discuss safe forms of exercise with their doctor first.

Stop exercising immediately if you experience chest pain or any chest discomfort. See your doctor before you resume exercising.



As always, the best source for advice on treating your migraines is your own migraine specialist. These descriptions of natural remedies are provided only for informational purposes. You should begin no medication or supplement without first checking with your physician. Again, this information should in no way substitute or be mistaken for medical advice.

Written by: Otesa Miles | Last review date: November 2010
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