Peer Reviewed


Exercise Level Increases Risk of Chronic Migraine, Comorbidites

Exercising for 150 minutes or more per week may improve migraine symptoms and comorbidities, according to the results of a new study presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 2021 Virtual Annual Meeting.

To examine how exercise may act as an effective migraine prophylaxis, the researchers quantified exercise and explored the relationship between exercise, migraine chronification, and other common comorbidities.

Included were 4879 patients who were diagnosed with migraine in a tertiary headache clinic at the University of Washington. Of the total patients surveyed, 74.7% (n = 3644) had chronic migraine, and 25.3% (n = 1235) had episodic migraine.

All patients completed an intake questionnaire, which included questions about their amount of exercise per week, headache characteristics, sleep habits, depression, anxiety, and stress level. International Classification of Headache Disorders, third edition (ICHD-3), criteria was used to analyze the questionnaire data.

Of the 4647 participants who completed the exercise-related questions, 27% (n = 1270) met the World Health Organization’s (WHO) minimum recommendation of 150 or more hours of moderate to vigorous exercise per week.

“We identified that most patients with a migraine diagnosis don’t get the minimum level of exercise recommended by the WHO. For patients achieving 150 minutes or more of moderate exercise per week, rates of depression, anxiety, and sleep problems are lower,” the authors wrote about the study results. “We recommend raising awareness that exercise can have a significant impact on the headache itself, and on associated migraine comorbidities. Counseling patients with migraine on recommended exercise levels should be considered by any medical provider.”


—Leigh Precopio



Dyess M, Cuneo A, Narula A, et al. Exercised brain in pain: quantification of exercise in migraine patients seen at a large tertiary headache center. Paper presented at: American Academy of Neurology’s 2021 Virtual Annual Meeting; April 17-22, 2021; Virtual.