The association with exercise and headaches generally stretches just far enough to include all of the ways in which exercise can contribute to headaches. Many people suffer from exercise headaches, which is usually a throbbing pain experienced during or after exertion. However, a healthy level of exercise plays an important role in headache prevention — you just have to be careful in your choice of exercise types if you’re prone to exercise-induced headaches.
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Weight management. Being overweight or obese comes with a host of complications, including high blood sugar, high blood pressure, poor circulation, increased tolerance to medications (making overuse more likely), and other contributing factors to headaches. By reducing your excess weight by even just a few pounds, you can significantly reduce your risk of experiencing these and other serious health consequences.
Mental well-being. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed than you were before you worked out.” This makes it exceptionally beneficial against stress, depression and anxiety — all of which have been identified as probable causes of many common headache types.
Improved circulation. Many headaches may be caused by oxygen deprivation or blood pressure issues. Regular exercise helps stimulate both vascular and lymphatic circulation, which helps keep the blood better oxygenated, while preventing or reducing excess fluid retention. These factors also promote heart health and increase stamina, which can also reduce your risk of headache.
How to exercise for headache prevention. Especially if you’re prone to exercise headaches, it can be difficult to envision all of these benefits in preventing headaches from the very thing that usually causes them. The key is to scale back on your workout intensity, but increase the duration for maximum benefits with little or no resultant exercise headache. Stay well hydrated, and avoid exercising in very hot weather in order to better ensure that you don’t trigger a headache.