Exercise to Reduce Migraines

Research shows that moderate exercise is often useful to reduce migraine attacks and may be the most important lifestyle change you can make. In fact, it is one of the only non-supplemental ways to improve neurotransmitter function. Research has shown that exercising 30 minutes 5 days per week can increase serotonin production up to 37%. In addition to helping reduce the frequency and intensity of migraine headaches, this can also improve sleep, reduce anxiety and depression and improve circulation.

The best exercises to alleviate migraines are aerobic activities such as walk­ing briskly, jogging, bicycling, cross-country skiing, swimming, aerobic dance, and racquet sports or light intensity strength training (low weight, high repetition), including circuit training. The important thing is to train with an intensity that will keep your heart rate in the training zone (defined as 60-75% of your maximum heart rate (220 – (your age in years).


If I am 35 years old my maximum heart rate is 220 – 35 = 185.
My training zone is 60-75% of 185:
185 x 0.60 = 111
185 x 0.75 = 139

So I would want my heart rate to stay in the range of 111-139 beats per minute during exercise to stay in my training zone.

Your initial level of fitness doesn’t matter, so no matter where you are on the fitness scale, regular exercise can help.

What does matter is consistency and enjoyment. Working out sporadically will not help raise neurotransmitter levels or alleviate migraines; you have to establish a regular routine. You also have to enjoy it – if working out is like pulling teeth, look for other activities to keep your blood pumping. Exercise and physical activity shouldn’t be a chore; sure, you may have to drag yourself to the gym or out for a walk for a few weeks until your body gets used to your new routine, but if you find yourself dreading your workout after a month or so, change things up.

Perform a variety of exercises that excite and invigorate you – have fun!!! Do one exercise for the entire 30 minutes, or do a variety. Many things count towards exercise, including:

Gardening Walking Biking
Dancing Playing with kids Sports
Running Soccer Volleyball
Yoga Tai Chi Climbing
Hiking Skating Rebounding
Swimming Jumping rope Yard work
Weight training Resistance training Circuit training

This may also be a good time to buddy-up with someone so you can motivate each other to make the time to exercise. Find a friend and catch up while you take a walk, or take a yoga class together. Make exercise fun and a regular part of your daily routine. Your body (and neurotransmitters) will thank you!