How to Exercise Without Triggering a Migraine Attack

exercise migraine prevention migraine triggers

I hear it all the time "I get a migraine attack every time I workout, so I stopped working out!"

But the same thing happened to me. As an avid cross country and tracker runner, I was devastated when I had to give up working out. I felt like every time I would workout, I would get the dreaded migraine attack, so I stopped.  I gave up the activity that I loved the most - long distance running. At times, it felt like migraine was ruling over and controlling my life, maybe you can relate?  

Thankfully through years of research and applying what I have learned to my life, I no longer have to fear a migraine attack after I workout and I can FINALLY do the things that I love AGAIN! And the best part, the same can be true for you!



Why is Exercise a Migraine Trigger?

Many people report that exercise is a migraine trigger. Studies even suggest that this may be true due to the chemical changes that occurs in our body when we exercise. Some of these changes are the release of neuropeptides like Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) and the release of lactic acid.  Now CGRP is being studied A LOT in the Migraine Community. You may have even heard of this before! Many of the new medications for migraine relief and prevention work by blocking the CGRP receptor, because CGRP is directly involved in the migraine process.

But there is GOOD NEWS! Even though these chemical changes occur, there are more studies to suggest that regular exercise (3 to 5 times per week) has actually shown to PREVENT migraine attacks. This is because when you exercise, it releases endorphins which act as natural pain killers and can help increase your mood. Also, with regular exercise, your body produces more anti-inflammatory markers which helps to prevent migraine attacks. Plus, regular exercise can help with common migraine trigger like decreasing stress, improving mood, and helping to sleep better at night. 

3 Tips to Exercise Without Triggering A Migraine Attack

1. Hydrae, Hydrate, Hydrate!

Make sure you are drinking water before, during, and after your workout. Dehydration is a common migraine trigger, so staying on top of this is best! You can even add electrolytes to your water as well for an added benefit.

2. Stabilize Blood Sugar 

Fluctuations in blood sugar can be a huge migraine trigger. When you work out, your blood sugar tends to dip and this blood sugar fluctuation can be a migraine trigger. One way to help with this is to make sure you are properly fueling your body. It's best to eat a snack before and after your workout. This will ensure that your blood sugar stays stable. 

3. Listen to Your Body

I cannot stress this enough, listen to your body! For most of us, migraine has caused us to live sedentary lives, so when getting back into working out, it's important to start SLOW and listen to your body. Heart rate can be a great indicator of how intense your workout is. When you live with migraine, you want to aim for workouts that are low in intensity. So, when you heart rate get's too high, pause your workout and take a breather and then resume at a light pace.


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