Could exercise really help you prevent migraines? I am a huge proponent of regular exercise as a prophylaxis for migraines. This has been such a “migraine reliever” in my own life.
Let’s talk about exercise for a few minutes.
According to the American Headache Society, regular exercise can reduce the frequency and intensity of headaches and migraines. It states that, “When one exercises, the body releases endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers. Exercise reduces stress and helps individuals to sleep at night. Stress and inadequate sleep are two migraine triggers.”
With that said, let’s not forget that for some migraine sufferers, exercising can actual induce migraines. Why? Actually, this is often due to an elevation of blood pressure. Nevertheless, we should not use this as an excuse to avoid exercise. Exercise is very beneficial for general health and when done correctly – and can work to prevent migraines. It’s best to start off slow and steady and work you way to a higher level once your body has had time to adjust.
When you exercise, try following this general plan to prevent migraines:
Stay hydrated before, during, and after exercise.
This is very important as dehydration in and of itself can cause migraines. If you are thirsty, it’s a sign that you have a substantial fluid deficit which may trigger a migraine. If you don’t sweat when you are exercising at a moderate to vigorous level, that is also a sign of dehydration.
Eat sufficient food about an hour and a half before you exercise.
Exercise causes blood sugar levels to decrease so it’s important to have a source of energy. You should plan to eat foods with plenty of protein, such as a protein bar or nuts, both of which are great snacks prior to exercising.
Pro Tip: If you eat too soon prior to exercising you might experience cramps. If this happens you should schedule your meals and exercise more carefully. As you are probably aware, a regular schedule is always beneficial in migraine management.
A good warm up is essential.
It’s very important to take the right measures to warm-up prior to exercising. It can be very detrimental, especially for a migraine sufferer, to jump into sudden, vigorous exercise. This can be a trigger for a migraine.
A good warm-up involves walking for five minutes at a slow pace of 2.0 to 2.5 miles per hour before you start walking at a faster pace or jogging. If you are weight lifting or doing other types of resistance exercises, you should stretch or gently lift light weights before starting with a more intense resistance training.
You should gradually work up to cardio exercises that are more vigorous in intensity. As a general rule of thumb, if you can talk while exercising then it is considered moderate intensity.
Note: If you need to stop to catch your breath after saying just a few words, then it is considered vigorous in intensity.
What types of exercise are right for you?
It can be hard to stay motivated with exercise programs, especially when you also have to deal with migraines. One of the best ways to counteract that is by choosing activities that you enjoy.
If you like to socialize and have fun, you probably would benefit by joining a walking/running club, or by going somewhere where you can play tennis, take exercise classes, or even go dancing.
If you are the type of person who prefers to exercise on your own, your best options could be to go walking, jogging, bike riding, and/or swimming.
If you like exercises that cause you to focus mentally, you would probably benefit from sports such as racquet sports, martial arts, yoga, or Pilates, all of which require concentration and discipline.
If you are a spontaneous type of person, hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, etc. are all unpredictable and fun.
When it comes to exercising, technology can really help. For example, you can use an exercise DVD, gaming console such as the Wii, or even put your favorite motivational songs on an MP3 player. There are also some great apps for smart phones and tablets that can structure your fitness routine – some of these are free or have free trials, while there may be some with an inexpensive purchase option. You can also use a Fit-Bit or a pedometer to increase the amount of steps that you take each day.
Pro Tip: When exercising, make it as convenient as possible. Exercise at a time of day when you’re at your best. What’s best for you? Early morning or in the evening?
Some people prefer to opt for joining a gym. If so, choose one that is conveniently located so that it is easier for you to get there. Also, remember that some health insurance plans do offer discounts at particular fitness centers.
If you prefer to exercise at home, then carefully consider what type of equipment is right for you. Do you like the treadmill or would you rather have an exercise bike? You can also buy some inexpensive extras like jump ropes, hula-hoops, and balls to throw.
Try setting goals and have accountability.
I recommend that you write down your goals and plans to help you to stick to your exercise routine. Then set yourself some type of reminder that you won’t be able to ignore. If you decide to exercise with a friend, set definite plans. Another great option if it’s in your budger, is to work with a personal trainer so that you have a set time.
Whatever you do though, be sure to “protect” your exercise time.
It also helps to make yourself accountable to someone. Keep track of your exercising so that when you reach your goals, you can celebrate and mark it on your calendar. You can use a weekly written goals planner or an app like MyFitnessPal or Map My Walk.
Pro Tip: It is also a great idea to keep a migraine diary at the same time you are exercising so that as you progress, you can actually see what effect your exercise plan is having on your migraines. Perhaps a certain type of exercise is a trigger, and you need to switch to something else.
The most important thing for you to do is to start at the level and pace that is best for you and keep going even when it gets hard. In the long-run, you will find that the exercise will have a positive effect on your migraines – and let’s face it, as a migraine sufferer, prevention and decreased pain intensity is what it’s all about.
If you need help with how to incorporate a solid exercise routine into your life, I would love to talk with you. Together we can discuss ways to minimize and reduce your migraines. I would love to help you achieve relief from pain and frequency of migraines. For your free assessment call >>SCHEDULE HERE<<
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