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Real Life Nutrition Questions Answered

Real Life Fitness Questions Answered

Emma Brown
Nutritionist

Janet Aylott
Nutritionist

Kelly Marshall
Fitness Consultant

Q.

How can I improve my fitness without worsening my migraines?

Hi, I suffer from migraines, to the point of which I am currently on preventative medicine. After recently starting Glamour diets, I decided to be brave and start using my Wii Fitness coach. I'm not at all fit and really am not into exercise, so haven't done any in years. I did an assessment to workout my fitness levels and a 15 minute moderate work out. The problem is, not being fit, this was hard work and left me with a headache, which lasted into the next day and turned into a mild migraine with nausea. I'd really like to increase my fitness levels, as I am sure being healthier will help my migraines, however I am worried about causing more headaches and migraines. I understand I need to exert myself through some cardio to lose weight though. What can I do to start improving my fitness levels at home? Regards Magicfox x

A.

Our expert says...

Hi,

You're absolutely right in thinking that increasing your fitness levels may help with your migraines. There is plenty of evidence out there that suggests that moderate exercise can reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks in some people. It is also understandable that you're worried about causing exercise induced headaches which have the potential to develop into migraines. T

he key thing to remember is 'little and often'. Keep your exercise duration short and at a low-moderate intensity and aim to exercise 3-5 times per week. Mild regular aerobic exercise offers the most benefits to those who suffer with migraines, so try to choose an exercise activity that you enjoy. Examples of aerobic exercise can include walking, jogging, swimming, dancing, cycling.

Take a look at these 10 ways to try and help/stop the occurrence of the exercise-induced headaches:

1. Make sure you're warming up before starting and cooling down afterwards. Try some easier exercise first, or try a few minutes of stretching. Not only can this eliminate exercise induced headache, it also helps avoid excessive muscle soreness that could lead to a headache later on.

2. Start slowly. If you're just starting an exercise program, don't start with something intensive. You may want to try something as simple as a daily brisk walk, and then move on once your body is used to it. You are wise to talk to your doctor before starting a new program, especially if you're over 40 or you have an injury or heart trouble.

3. Stay well hydrated.

4. Avoid exercise that involved prolonged stooping.

5. If you've followed the above suggestions and you're still getting headaches, try taking a couple of NSAIDs before you start, such as ibuprofen (Advil).

6. Try gentler exercise. Lower impact, more stretching. If tennis is causing a problem, try swimming instead, for example. I.e. it may be that you need to move away from the impact exercise of running for a period of time so try phasing in non-impact cardiovascular machines instead and see if this makes a difference.

7. Try taking a drug that constricts blood vessels, such as Ergomar, before you begin (suggestion from Valerie South, RN, of the World Headache Alliance). If you were to consider this route I strongly suggest you do this in conjunction with GP guidance and support.

8. If dropping blood sugar levels is a problem try taking a glucose tablet before you begin, and then have a starchy snack or better yet a full meal soon after you finish (within an hour) (from Sue Dyson in Migraines a Natural Approach)

9. Taper off slowly: If you're already involved in intense exercise, don't stop suddenly. If you know you're going to be taking some time off, slow down the exercise, don't quit cold turkey. (Check out this article from the journal of exercise physiology -http://faculty.css.edu/tboone2/asep/JEPletter.html)

10. Commonly used medication: The International Headache Society writes that Indocin (an anti-inflammatory medication) is commonly used to treat this type of headache (primary exertion headache or primary cough headache). Some patients have also used ergotamine tartrate. Caution should be exercised when using these medications - talk to your doctor first.

(adapted from www.relieve-migraine-headache.com)

Hope this helps,

Kelly

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