A good workout is likely to leave you with sore abs, biceps or quads. But for some people, exercise can result in a pain of a different sort.
Yes, headaches may be an unfortunate though common side effect of exercise for almost any type of athlete, but that doesn’t mean you need to steer clear of the gym or field. With a little know-how, headache sufferers can partake of all the benefits of exercise without being sidelined by head pain. In fact, when undertaken wisely, exercise may actually help prevent headaches and migraines in some.
It’s not entirely clear how exercise might trigger headaches. It may be due to a confluence of factors including low blood sugar, dehydration, lack of sleep and improper warm-up. More studies are needed to say anything conclusively. Until then, here are a few simple steps to follow:
Eat Well and Stay Hydrated. Dehydration and low blood sugar are your enemies. An hour and a half before your workout, make sure to eat a solid meal or snack and drink water. Continue to hit the water fountain during and after your workout to replenish fluids lost to sweat. You may also want to eat a piece of fruit or a snack before or during exercise to prevent a sudden drop in blood sugar. Choose wisely and avoid snacks that could trigger headaches.
Warm Up and Cool Down. Carefully warming up and cooling down may feel unnecessary, but the sudden onset or cessation of exercise can trigger a headache in some people. Take five or 10 minutes to stretch or slowly warm up and cool down before and after your session.
Choose Your Exercise Carefully. The most head-friendly workouts are mild aerobic exercises like jogging, swimming, walking and cycling. Exercising for 30 minutes three times per week is a reasonable goal, but tailor your routine to fit what you can handle. Give yourself about six weeks to settle into your new routine before you start evaluating its benefits. If you’re just starting to exercise, slowly ramp up your routine, as sudden increases in workout intensity can be a trigger.