Should You Exercise With A Migraine?

There are some definite feel-good effects that come from having a workout. When we exercise, our bodies release endorphins which give us an euphoric natural high. Plus, endorphins act as analgesics, meaning that they diminish the perception of pain, which is an excellent reason to go and spend some quality you-time at the gym. However, when you also suffer from migraines there’s always a worry in the back of your mind in most aspects of day-to-day life – “will this trigger a migraine?”. Or, if you’ve already got a migraine, “will this make my migraine worse?”.

Woman doing difficult plank exercise

So, should you exercise with a migraine? Unfortunately, it’s not a simple answer.

Generally, doctors suggest that those who suffer from frequent migraines should get half an hour of aerobic exercise on at least three days each week. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity every week, with two days of muscle-strengthening. So some exercise is certainly recommended. Added to this, it has been shown that a regular exercise routine can reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines over time, but that’s not to say that it’s always a good idea to exercise.

One occasion when going to the gym might be the last thing you should do is if you have missed a meal. Low blood sugar is a common migraine trigger, and if you’re already running low on energy, going all-out on the rowing machine might just be the last straw. Similarly, if you didn’t sleep well then using up what energy you have at the gym isn’t a good idea, or, if you haven’t had much to drink that day, lowering your hydration levels even further by sweating lots isn’t going to be good.

If you are worried that exercising could bring on a migraine, then make sure to;

  1. Eat something an hour and a half before you begin your workout.
  2. Have a good drink before you go, and keep water with you to stay hydrated throughout your workout.
  3. Don’t do anything too strenuous. Swimming and yoga are often popular with migraine sufferers as migraine-friendly, low-impact sports which don’t trigger an attack.

The best thing to do is to listen to your body, and if you don’t feel quite right, then it may be best to take it steady and not push yourself too hard, or even to save your workout for another day.

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