HEALTHY LIVING
10/11/2011 08:41 am ET Updated Dec 11, 2011

Exercise Could Prevent Migraines As Well As Drugs, Study Shows

Exercise could have effects beyond strength-building and promoting heart health -- a new study shows it could work just as well as drugs to ward off migraines.

The small, new study, conducted by researchers at the Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology at the University of Gothenburg, shows that regular exercise seems to prevent migraines about as well as drugs or relaxation therapy. The finding was published in the journal Cephalalgia.

The results were surprising because the drug used in the study, topiramate, is one of the top drugs of choice for treating migraines, study researcher Dr. Emma Varkey told Reuters.

Topiramate seemed to do a bit better than relaxation therapy and exercise in terms of reducing the severity of migraine pain, Reuters reported. But relaxation therapy and exercise were devoid of the side effects caused by topiramate, which include depressed mood, vertigo and constipation, and even caused some study participants to drop out.

For the study, 91 women who were diagnosed with migraines without aura took topiramate, participate in relaxation therapy or exercise (three times a week, for 40 minutes each exercise session) for three months.

Past research has also linked exercise with decreased migraine pain and duration. One 2009 study in Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain shows that aerobic exercise (in the form of indoor cycling) helped to decrease migraine attacks, the duration of migraines and the intensity of headaches, ScienceDaily reported.

However, exercising DURING a migraine could make it worse, the Bastyr Center for Natural Health reported.

For more ways to help eliminate migraines, read functional medicine expert and HuffPost blogger Dr. Mark Hyman's tips here.