Here is a cardio workout that will benefit people with migraine headaches.

This cardio workout for migraine headaches is based on a study that showed that those with this condition can, indeed, tolerate certain types of physical activity fairly well.

The study results included that of a lower frequency of the pain occurrence.

What is the cardio exercise mode?

It is that of indoor cycling.

In the study, the exercise sessions on the indoor bikes did not aggravate the symptoms of the study subjects.

Shutterstock/ Seasontime

In the last month of the study, the frequency of migraine headaches dropped considerably.

The intensity of pain also dropped. As a result, the amount of medication taken also was reduced.

“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,” says study co-author, Dr. Emma Varkey in the paper.

Cycling indoors seems just what the doctor ordered, as it eliminates most of the jarring or bobbing up and down that occurs with other forms of cardio exercise.

This is one mode of cardio in which a person’s head stays virtually immobile, since the entire upper body is locked nicely in place.

Unfortunately, since exercise historically worsens this unique type of head pain, studies in this realm have been lacking. More research is called for.

Avoiding Exercise Due to Headaches

If you suffer from migraines and, as a result of this, have been avoiding aerobic activity, it’s time to hop on a stationary bike and see what happens.

  • Don’t get ahead of yourself by attempting a Spin class as your first session. These classes tend to be intense and loud.
  • Start out on a stationary cycle in the cardio section of a gym, or perhaps you can buy a bike for your home.
  • Do not get into the habit of reading while pedaling, as this will distract you from being aware of how your body is responding.
  • Watching TV while pedaling is actually less distracting than reading, as it’s quite possible to pedal vigorously while viewing a TV screen — whereas trying to maintain a vigorous pace while reading is more difficult.

Sprint Cycling

When I was a personal trainer I instructed my clients how to do sprint cycling, which is another term for high intensity interval training on a stationary bike.

Once you find that pedaling a bike is migraine-friendly, you may want to try sprint cycling — regardless of your body weight.

It’s just a superior way to use a stationary bike; plus, it saves time. Twenty minutes of sprint cycling is far more effective than a whole hour of steady state pedaling.

Here’s how to get started with sprint cycling — also called anaerobic cycling.

Pedaling super fast may jostle the bike somewhat, depending on the machine. If this brings on a headache, slow down or try a different machine.

Find a bike that is more stable on the floor.

If at some point you feel ready for a Spin class, then go for it.

Make sure you’re well-hydrated throughout your exercise, since dehydration can cause headaches.

The study is published in Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained clients of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 
Top image: Shutterstock/B-D-S Piotr Marcinski