Headache Exercise Tips

Previously posted on www.relieve-migraine-headache.com.  Looking for headache exercise ideas?  Exercise is one of the best things you can do to cut down on your headaches.  For some people, exercise virtually eliminates their headaches. Others just find them to be less frequent, or far less intense. If you’re thinking about getting a bit more exercise in your life, here are a few things to consider:

  • Warm up: Take the time to start with a walk, or better yet some stretches. This will keep your muscles from getting sore, and keep your body from getting “shocked” into a headache.
  • Avoid the exercise induced headache: Watch the pain: If you already have a headache, take it easy at first. If the headache gets worse, stop and rest for a while. Try putting a cool cloth on your head. (Note: some people find that some gentle exercise early on during a headache can stop the pain before it starts. Give it a try, but if it doesn’t help don’t push it.)
  • Moderate daily exercise: If nothing else, try to get about 30 minutes of moderate exercise almost every day. Go for a walk, vacuum the carpet, go for a swim. If you have a bad headache, and need to take a day off, try again the next day – no problem.
  • Busy? Try small bites: That 30 minutes doesn’t have to be all at once. Take it in 10 minute chunks. Research shows that this type of exercise can be just as good as 30 minutes all at once.
  • Talk to your doctor: If you want to start a new headache exercise program, talk to your doctor first, especially if you’re over 40, or have an injury or have had heart problems.
  • Aerobics: Ideally you need more than just the “moderate” exercise mentioned above. To really get the headache exercise benefits, you need to get your heart pumping at least 20 beats a minute faster than it beats when you’re resting. You probably don’t need to take your pulse – if you’re breathing hard and fast, your heart is getting exercised. Try to get about 20 minutes (all at once) of this type of exercise 3-4 times a week. (this is a good tip for headache exercise or any exercise).  Aerobic exercise includes things like biking, basketball, and badminton.
  • Variety: Don’t do the same thing all the time. Keep it interesting, try new things! 
  • Combinations: When all is said and done, you’ll get the best benefits by doing a combination of aerobic exercise and stretches or weight training. In their book, Migraine, what works!, Drs Kandel and Sudderth suggest doing both 3-4 times a week for 30-40 minutes. This is something you’ll want to build up to little by little. Don’t get discouraged, just take one small step!
  • Cool down: After you’re done, be sure to cool down by taking a walk or doing some more stretches.

Further reading…

For some excellent exercise tips specifically for migraineurs, try Dr Alexander Mauskop’s book What Your Doctor May NOT Tell You About Migraines. Dr Mauskop includes a few gentle exercises, as well as general advice. 

Back and neck pain are often headache triggers. A book with some ideas for improving posture and getting exercise in daily life is The Posture Prescription by Dr Arthur White and Kate Kelly. This is a unique book, but very well suited to people with headache and migraine pain.

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