Migraine Sufferers May Benefit from Aerobic Exercise

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Aerobic Exercise and Migraine Treatment

A new study suggests that migraine sufferers might find relief through aerobic exercise designed to increase oxygen uptake. The new study improved quality of life, and decreased the need for medication to treat migraine headache when the group studied participated in indoor cycling three times a week.

The study, published in The Journal of Head and Face Pain, showed improvements in quality of life and decreased the incidence of migraine headaches among the participants.

Most migraines worsen with exercise. Using a controlled exercise regimen of indoor cycling, twenty-six patients were able to reduce the amount of medication used for migraine headache relief, and had fewer and less intense migraine headaches from cycling indoors three times a week during the twelve-week study.


Dr. Emma Varkey, co-author of the study says, “While the optimal amount of exercise for patients with migraine remains unknown, our evaluated program can now be tested further and compared to pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments to see if exercise can prevent migraine.”

Cycling increased oxygen uptake in the body. The Swedish study improved oxygen uptake among the migraine sufferers from 32.9 mL/kg/minute to 36.2 mL/kg/minute. One person had a migraine headache immediately after exercise, on one occasion after cycling.

According to the Mayo Clinic, 17% of men and 6% of women experience migraine headache. Symptoms of migraine headache vary among individuals, and physical activity often makes migraine headaches worse. Some individuals experience migraine headache as often as several times a month, lasting up to 3 days.

The study shows that rather than avoiding exercise, migraine sufferers may benefit from regular aerobic activity designed to increase oxygen uptake. Pending further research, the findings could lead to improvements in quality of life for anyone suffering from frequent, debilitating migraine headache.

Reference: Wiley