Creating a Migraine-Friendly Exercise Routine for the New Year

The buzz around New Year’s resolutions is everywhere this time of year. Everyone is searching for the best diet, exercise plan, and healthy habits to make this the year that they get healthy. But when you’re living with migraine, this concept of getting a fresh start sounds like a privilege to those who don’t live with the relentless pain of migraine.

I mean wouldn’t we all love to live a healthy lifestyle? But how is that possible if you can’t get the pain to stop long enough for you to make a healthy meal or do an exercise class?

How can I work out with migraine?

This article is not a fairytale strategy of magical steps that will eliminate your migraine pain. However, I want to invite us to not write off the idea of exercise because we have migraine. It may look different than what we previously did to exercise, and it may look very different from the “average” gym-goer. However, I want to take a moment to understand how we can still exercise while managing migraine.

How can I redefine exercise?

First, we need to understand that exercise doesn’t have to be an extreme CrossFit style workout. That may be appropriate for some, but for those of us living with migraine, it likely looks very different.

To help me shift my mindset around exercise, I like to think of it as “activity.” Just the word alone feels less intimidating on days that you’re not feeling well. I can think of ways to get “activity” in without the overwhelming feeling that “exercising” creates.

What can activity look like on good and bad days?

Let’s explore “activity” on the days you feel your best to the days you feel your worst.

For the most debilitating days, activity maybe look like moving from your bedroom to the couch in your family room. Or sitting in a chair close to a window – even if the shades have to be drawn to block the light but you open the window to breathe in some fresh air.

On days that you’re feeling a bit better maybe your activity is walking to the mailbox, light stretching, or doing some things around the house.

And if you get days of little to no pain, maybe you’re able to go for a walk around the neighborhood or take a yoga class or even do some light strength training.

The key is finding appropriate level exercise that matches your level of energy and health.

Can exercise help migraine?

There have been times in my years of living with migraine where I have found that exercise can help me to manage migraine.

I found the more consistent I am with exercise, the more I am able to keep the next migraine attack at bay. Migraine attacks became less frequent and less debilitating for me when I’m in a good exercise routine.

Where can you start?

As with many approaches with managing migraine what works for some, may not work for others and vice-versa, but taking a baby step to find out which camp you fall into can make a big difference, and it’s worth the effort in my opinion.

To do it safely, I find it best to start with the smallest of steps. Like I said if that’s changing locations of where you’re resting throughout the day, let that be your first step. Maybe a daily shower is a first step for you.

You have to understand your starting point to navigate your path forward.

Personally, I like to start with walks around my neighborhood, and then add in yoga, pilates, and light strength training as I can. It ebbs and flows, but I do find it helpful and important to get over that first initial hump of resistance that we may have to exercise so that we can exercise the potential benefits that it can bring to helping us manage migraine.

How do you navigate exercise while living with migraine? What does exercise or “activity” look like for you?

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