Study participants completed a questionnaire about their migraine characteristics, sleep, depression, stress and anxiety. They also answered questions about how much moderate to vigorous exercise they got each week — jogging, very brisk walking, playing a sport, heavy cleaning and bicycling, for example.
Researchers divided participants into five groups by frequency of exercise ranging from none to more than 150 minutes per week, the minimum recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). About 27% got the recommended amount or more.
Participants who got less exercise than recommended had increased rates of depression, anxiety and sleep problems, the study found.
Researchers found that 47% of the people who did not exercise had depression; 39% had anxiety, and 77% had sleep problems.
By comparison, about 25% of the most active group had depression; 28% had anxiety; and 61% had sleep problems.
The study also found a link between exercise and headache frequency. In the no exercise group, 5% had zero to four headache days a month, while many more — 48% — had 25 or more headache days per month.
In the high exercise group, 10% had low headache frequency and 28% had high headache frequency.
Dr. Mark Green, a member of the National Headache Foundation’s Health Care Leadership Council, and a professor of neurology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, urged migraine sufferers to be cautious about their exercise routines.
Consistency is key, whether it comes to exercise or other activities that can be beneficial, such as controlling caffeine, wake and sleep hours, eating and hydration, said Green, who wasn’t part of the study.
He suggests his patients begin a routine of walking on a treadmill for 3 1/2 miles at an incline of 4 degrees every day. He recommends increasing the angle, not the speed, if someone wants more of a workout.