Exercise is vital for a balanced and healthy functioning of your body and works wonders for treating a lot of health problems and illnesses. 

But did you know that sometimes exercise can actually prove to be harmful? But that sounds ridiculous! Well, it’s still true; at times, overexerting yourself while exercising can lead to body exhaustion and some exercises themselves are not that recommended for people with certain conditions. 

People with a history of migraines have to be extremely cautious while working out because exercise-induced migraines are very much a thing. 

What are exercise-induced migraines? 

A migraine, in simple terms, is a throbbing sensation around specific parts of your head which is often associated with nausea, lasting headaches, and sensitivity to light and/or sound. 

Exercise-induced migraines are quite similar to normal migraines as the only major difference is the reasons and triggers of the migraine. As the name suggests, these are migraines one tends to get while exercising but the reasons may vary depending on the type of exercise. 

One of the major reasons for an exercise-induced migraine to trigger is engaging yourself in vigorous and sudden movements while exercising, like jerking or rotating your head too fast, bending over or turning your body abruptly, etc… It could also be a physical response of your body to a sudden elevation of your blood pressure. 

Yet another factor that is most likely to trigger a migraine while working out is the type of exercise or sport you engage yourself into; if you are playing a sport that is too strenuous or doing certain exercises which require a lot of vigorous movements, then you are most likely to experience a migraine. 

And this direct relationship between exercise and migraine is why migraine patients should be well aware of what kind of exercises suits them and which ones don’t. 

Other factors besides these such as stress (emotional/physical), disrupted sleep patterns, unhealthy food habits, hormonal changes, etc., can also instantly trigger migraines.  

Exercises that are most likely to trigger a migraine

Here are a bunch of exercises and sports that are not advisable for you if you have a history of migraines.

This is one of the most commonly known activities to trigger a migraine and not only in migraine patients, but in athletes and runners who don’t have a history of migraine as well.

And it is especially triggered if you already have low blood sugar; lack of glucose leads to faster depletion of your body’s energy which is why a headache is then most likely to occur after a running, sprinting, and at times even after brisk walking. 

  • Rowing 

Rowing is quite a tiring and strenuous exercise which is why it is also highly likely to trigger a migraine. 

So, avoid doing this exercise as much as you can. 

  • Swimming

Surprisingly enough, swimming can easily trigger migraines and these often start as tension headaches but as the pulsing or throbbing sensation increases, the condition tends to get worse. However, this is not uncommon because the cold water can make your previously expanded blood vessels to spasm by contracting them. It’s just like a brain freeze when you have something extremely cold to eat or drink! 

  • Tennis 

While playing tennis, you have to constantly keep moving and making numerous abrupt body movements. And on top of that, continuously playing on the court for a long time, especially in the scorching heat during the daytime, also leads to a drop in your blood glucose levels, as a result of which, migraines are likely to occur. 

  • Weightlifting 

This particular exercise requires a lot of use of your shoulder and neck muscles and poor form/posture or too much pressure building up in these areas can quickly lead to migraines that happen because of the tension forming in your muscles. 


Besides these specific reasons, exercise-induced migraines also might get triggered because of dehydration, too much pressure and muscle tension, and exercising in very high altitudes. 

Ways to treat exercise-induced migraines 

One of the best (and the most obvious) ways to avoid these migraines is by avoiding engaging in these exercises and activities that you already know can trigger a migraine. 

However, that can be difficult for a fitness freak and if you are one too, here are some other ways with the help of which you can continue with your workout routine and take care of your migraines too: 

  • The first and foremost rule is to not overexert yourself; keep taking breaks in between, stretch your body, and engage in other exercises more than the ones that can induce a migraine.

You don’t have to completely stop with these exercises or sports but you could simply cut down the time for these specific activities. 

  • Hydrate yourself before, after, and in between the exercises. Take small water breaks and drink plenty of water once you are done exercising.
  • Keep the weather in mind if you want to go for a run or to play tennis and avoid going out and exercising if the temperature is too high.

And the same goes for exercising indoors too; choose a well air-conditioned and cool environment, be it a gym or your room. 

  • Warm-up before starting your workout routine and cool down towards the end. This is pretty basic and common, but it is still imperative and should always be followed.

It is also important to note that sometimes if you are experiencing a migraine while exercising, it might not always be due to that and can also be because of a pre-existing factor or condition like undealt stress, irregular sleep patterns, consumption of beverages like alcohol and caffeinated drink, etc…

So, make sure to take some preventive measures for a better and disturbance-free exercise routine. 

Also, if you have migraine attacks too frequently and if natural and common ways of treating them don’t work, then it is best to consult a doctor. 

And exercise-induced migraines often trigger due to different reasons, so if you are prescribed any medications, then check-up with your doctor before you include these medicines in your exercise routine! 

Also read: Full Body Stretching Routine: Guide to Ultimate Rejuvenation