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A sharp, pulsating pain spreads across the head. Vision blurs and the overwhelming, all-too-familiar aura returns. This is a chronic migraine sufferer’s worst nightmare – another attack impends. If only there were a simple, natural way to prevent it…

If you experience recurring migraines, you’ll be glad to know that regular, moderate exercise has the potential to reduce the frequency and intensity of your attacks. Recent studies have revealed that exercise stimulates the release of endorphins – the body’s natural painkillers – as well as anti-depressant chemicals called enkephalins. On these grounds, a well-planned exercise program could be the accessible, drug-free remedy we’ve all been dreaming of.


The relationship between migraine and exercise


Physical exercise and migraines have a complex, controversial relationship. Many people identify exercise as a trigger – something that can provoke or worsen their migraines – while others swear by its therapeutic and preventive benefits. 

One 2018 intervention study revealed some particularly interesting findings. It saw 52 migraine patients randomised into an exercise group and a control group. The exercise group undertook 45 minutes of aerobic exercise – cycling, brisk walking or using a cross-trainer – 3 times weekly for 3 months. The control group, on the other hand, continued their usual daily activities, with no aerobic exercise. After the assessment period, within the exercise group, a significant reduction was found for migraine frequency, pain intensity and duration, neck pain intensity and burden of migraine, along with an increase in physical fitness and wellbeing. So, can exercise cure migraines? No. Can exercise prevent migraines and help with symptoms? Yes, it appears so.


What are the best forms of exercise for migraine sufferers?


Leading an active lifestyle will help you stay fit and healthy. It has also been found to improve your quality of life – boosting mood, increasing energy levels and enhancing relaxation. So, what types of exercise can help with migraine tension? 

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to managing a chronic illness. You need to explore your options and find a physical activity that you enjoy. Mild regular aerobic exercise is generally recommended but vigorous, strenuous sports or activities, such as weightlifting, rowing, running, tennis or football, are best avoided as some people find that they can lead to exercise-triggered attacks.  


Good forms of exercise for migraine sufferers include:


With any type of exercise, it’s important that you establish a routine, build your stamina gradually, stay hydrated, use the correct posture, clothing and equipment, and warm-up and cool down. According to the Migraine Trust, you should aim to undertake 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, three times a week, giving yourself six weeks to see if there is any beneficial effect.

Please note, you should never push yourself to a place of discomfort when it comes to exercising, go at your own pace and never make yourself feel guilty if you don’t exercise. 

We hope these migraine exercises are helpful. If you suffer from chronic migraines and are looking for support, why not join our Facebook community page Together For Better Days. It’s a relaxed, open environment for you to share your personal experiences, and features holistic health tips galore.

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