So – Should I Exercise Less?

One of the interesting revelations at the 18th Congress of the International Headache Society this September in Vancouver was that we should seriously think about exercising less. Well, for less time. Sort of.

Exercise PartnersMost of us already know that the most amazing “pill” to take to keep the migraine monster at bay is exercise. Just a little more movement every week can make a huge difference over time.

But those who want to get some serious exercise in over the course of a week often have a problem. Well, a few problems maybe. But for the purpose of this article, the problem is time. Where in our busy (and often migraine-interrupted) schedules are we ever going to find time?

Yes, we know that the exercise will pay off – fewer migraine days, more energy, being more alert and productive. But sometimes that isn’t enough to motivate us.

But this study out of Switzerland might help a little.

The study of 20 women and 4 men included two different exercise plans:

  • 45 minutes twice per week = 90 minutes per week
  • 28 minutes twice per week = 56 minutes per week

Both groups saw a significant improvement – fewer migraine days. But the second group experienced a MUCH greater improvement.

What’s the catch? Well, the catch – sort of – is that both groups burned the same number of calories. In other words, the second group had more intense exercise.

You can read the actual details of the two types of exercise here: High-Intensity Training Bests Moderate Exercise for Migraine

The group that improved the most used HIT, or high-intensity interval training . But remember, they exercised less per week and had a much better result. In fact, over a year, they would exercise for 26.5 hours less than the other group – that’s more than a day of your life. (Actually, almost two days, depending on how much sleep you get!)

Why the difference? Lead author Alice Minghetti explains:

After you do high-intensity training, your body for a long period has to have certain adaptations in your system, so you need more oxygen after the workout than you do when you have just continuous, moderate-pace exercise. So especially for people who are busy or actually enjoy high intensity…it’s a better exercise regimen.

The drawback for migraine patients is that our brains don’t like change. Sudden changes such as those in high intensity training could trigger attacks in some. But remember, these were migraine patients. And even with that issue, headache days were fewer with either kind of exercise.

So, if you can, give it a try. If you just can’t – increase your exercise – or any kind of movement – little by little. It may be your best treatment.

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