Exercising regularly provides you with many benefits. You can boost your mood, slim down, and reduce your risk for many serious medical conditions. However, there’s one less pleasant result that may surprise you. That’s exertion headaches that typically occur when exercising or after exercising.
They usually involve pain on both sides of the head and can last from 5 minutes to more than 2 days. An estimated 12% of adults experience these symptoms. That increases to as much as 40% if you have a history of migraines.
Exercise exertion headaches have many causes, and most are easily treatable once you understand what’s happening. Learn more about home remedies and when to seek medical care.
Common Causes of Exercise Exertion Headaches
- Low blood sugar levels
- High blood pressure
- Poor posture
- Breathing improperly
- Stress induced tension
- Scents such as cologne, perfume, body spray
Change Your Workout Habits
Most exercise headaches are the simple exertion type, suggesting that you may be trying to do too much too soon. Increase your fitness goals gradually. Break up your workouts into shorter and more frequent sessions.
Give your body time to adapt. Warming up slowly increases your heart rate and circulation. Ride a stationary bike for 10 minutes or march in place swinging your arms.
Adjust your posture
Poor form puts more pressure on your muscles, raising the risk for a headache and other injuries.
One quick tip is to always make sure your neck is in a neutral position and in alignment with your spine to avoid nerve compression and excess muscular tension. Especially don’t tilt your head up.
If you’re unsure of your posture, I suggest to work with a trainer or watch videos to see how an exercise is supposed to look.
Do you sometimes catch yourself holding your breath during a difficult movement? Your body and brain need oxygen. Practice exhaling while you lift a weight and inhaling when you lower it.
Being limber makes your workouts easier. Stretching increases blood flow and trains your body to work more effectively. Add a few stretches to your cool down routine or do them while you watch TV.
Eat a snack
Consume enough calories to prevent fatigue and stabilize your blood sugar. Smart choices for a pre-workout snack include peanut butter on crackers or yogurt with fruit. Afterwards, enjoy chocolate milk or hummus.
Check the weather. Move your workout indoors when the heat index is over 90 degrees. Exercise early in the morning or late in the day during the warmest seasons.
Other Helpful Tips
A lack of fluids can cause headaches, and the pain may feel worse when you move your head. As a general rule, rehydrate with water and save the sports and electrolyte drinks for intense activity that lasts longer than an hour.
Getting 7 to 8 hours of high-quality rest each night can reduce headaches and many other ailments. Regular exercise helps, along with maintaining a consistent bedtime and keeping your bedroom dark and quiet.
Your body and mind are closely connected, so both mental and muscle tension can make your head sore. Find relaxation practices that work for you, like listening to instrumental music. Think positive and reach out for help when you need it.
Depending on the individual, exercise may help with your migraines or make them worse. Keep a journal, so you and your health provider can determine your needs.
See your doctor
If you have heart disease or other underlying conditions, let your doctor know if you have exercise headaches. Follow their recommendations for what activities are safe for you.
Seek urgent care
Act immediately if any headache is sudden and extreme or accompanied by neurological symptoms like slurred speech, loss of balance, and confusion.
Adopting an active lifestyle is one of the most important things you can do for your mental and physical wellbeing. Knowing how to prevent and treat exercise headaches will help you to enjoy your workouts and stay fit.