Aerobic Exercise Program in Patients With Migraine

Hi All,

A new Swedish study appeared this week and showed that it is possible for migraineurs to improve cardiovascular health and fitness (through training) without kicking off a migraine nightmare. Worth a look if you’re worried you’ll never be able to exercise again! But also nice to see that they’re going to investigate how exercise might reduce attacks next.

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[size=140]Safe exercise for migraine sufferers[/size]

GOTHENBURG, Sweden, April 17 (UPI) – Physiotherapists in Sweden say they have developed an exercise program that can improve fitness among migraine sufferers without aggravating the condition.

The study, published in the journal Headache, followed 20 migraine sufferers asked to follow an exercise program using an exercise bike three times a week for three months under the guidance of a physiotherapist.

“We could see that those who participated in the study were much fitter after the training period, since their ability to absorb oxygen increased considerably,” Emma Varkey of Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, in Sweden said in a statement.

Only one of the patients suffered a migraine attack that was directly linked to the training session, Varkey said.

Many patients who suffer from migraines avoid taking aerobic exercise because they are afraid the physical activity may bring on a serious migraine attack, Varkey said.

The researchers said they have shown the risk of increased frequency of attacks in connection with this type of exercise is extremely small. They said they plan to study whether exercise can be used to prevent or alleviate migraine attacks.

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The original paper published in the journal Headache and titled:

[size=130]A Study to Evaluate the Feasibility of an Aerobic Exercise Program in Patients With Migraine[/size]
E Varkey, A Cider, J Carlsson, M Linde
2009 Apr;49(4):563-70

OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to develop and evaluate an exercise program to improve maximum oxygen uptake (VO(2 max)) in untrained patients with migraine without making their migraines worse. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Twenty-six patients were studied at a headache clinic in Sweden. The exercise program, based on indoor cycling, was performed 3 times per week during 12 weeks. VO(2 max), migraine status, side effects, and quality of life were evaluated. RESULTS: VO(2 max) increased from 32.9 mL/kg/minute to 36.2 mL/kg/minute (P = 0.044). Quality of life increased and significant improvements in migraine status (attack frequency, symptom intensity, and intake of medicine) were seen. During the 12 weeks of exercise, on one occasion one patient had a migraine attack, which started immediately after training. No other side effects were reported. CONCLUSIONS: The evaluated exercise program was well tolerated by the patients and improved their VO(2 max) with no deterioration of migraine status.

interesting. I also want to mention that Dr. Buchholtz greatly emphasizes the importance of exercise as a way to increase your migraine threshold. Of course, exercising is easier said than done for us. Do other doctors also push exercise as a way to combat migraine. (of course, exercise will most probably have to be combined with meds, diet, etc)?


That is good info. I exercise 30-40 min 4 days a week but I don’t push myself like I use too. I know when I had enough.
I have found that exercise has sometimes gotten rid of my headaches. I think everyone could benefit from some form of light exercise, but it’s easier said than done. You have to take baby steps…