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Exercise for Migraine Sufferers

One of the triggers of migraines can be exercise. For this reason many sufferers aren't getting the exercise they should for overall health because they're afraid aerobic exercise will cause a painful migraine attack. If you fit into this category, the good news is that you can exercise without triggering an attack. Researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, developed an exercise program in 2009 that can help migraine sufferers improve their fitness levels without triggering an attack.

"We know that everyone benefits from a little exercise, but if you're convinced that a session at the gym will end up with you being confined to bed with a thumping headache and nausea then it's hardly surprising that people give it a miss," Jane Carlsson, Professor in Physiotherapy at the Sahlgrenska Academy told Science Daily.

Details of the Study

The study involved 20 participants, all of whom regularly experienced moderate to severe migraine attacks after physical exertion. The participants were required to practice the specialized exercise program for three months at three times a week. The exercise included using an exercise bike and other exercises under the guidance of a physiotherapist. One patient in the study suffered a migraine attack directly connected to the physical training. The other 19 patients had no attacks associated with the exercise. All study participants showed an increase in fitness levels after the three months and a greater ability to absorb oxygen.

Exercise Suggestions

The Mayo Clinic also recommends aerobic exercise for migraine sufferers, but warns that those who suffer from migraines should avoid intense or sudden exercise. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends migraine sufferers warm up gradually and do exercises like walking, swimming or cycling.

The Bastry Center for Natural Health recommends migraine suffers exercise for at least 30 minutes three times a week. Each exercise session should include a 10-minute warm-up followed by a 20-minute aerobic session. It's important to plan for a sufficient cool down of 10 minutes to help reduce a migraine attack. Regular exercise, done properly, can reduce migraines with auras according to the National Health Center. It can even reduce the intensity, duration and frequency of the headaches.

The Wrong Way to Exercise

The Migraine Trust, a UK-based health and medical research charity, says that there are wrong ways to exercise and these mistakes can trigger an attack. Make sure you eat properly before you exercise so your sugar levels don't drop. Don't allow your body to become dehydrated, the Migraine Trust warns. Dehydration can trigger an attack so always drink enough water. Never exercise suddenly with no prior planning since it causes a sudden and unexpected demand for oxygen in your body. Strenuous and infrequent exercise can cause stiff and aching muscles that can act as a trigger. Ease yourself slowly into an exercise routine.