During Migraine Awareness Week (9th -15th September 2019) the Migraine Association of Ireland are encouraging people with migraine to get outdoors and experience the potential health benefits of connecting with their environment.
Many people with migraine avoid exercise as it can sometimes trigger a migraine attack or an exertion related headache. Many find gyms and fitness studios are triggering environments with harsh lighting, loud music and high temperatures. But by avoiding exercise people are missing out on the potential benefits that exercise could offer them.
In 2009 researchers from the University of Gothenburg found that for people who want to reduce migraines without the side effects of drugs exercise may be a good alternative. The same researchers studied the effects of cardiovascular exercise on people with migraine. At the end of the study, they saw improvements in cardiovascular fitness and reductions in the severity and frequency of migraines experienced. There is an increasing body of evidence that exercising in the outdoors also offers additional benefits over and above indoor exercise. Researchers at the University of Essex determined that just five minutes of green exercise can yield improvements in mood and self-esteem.
During Migraine Awareness Week, we are holding several meet ups and events throughout the country that people can attend and try different types of outdoor exercise from sea swimming to forest bathing. Sea swimming could also offer potential benefits for migraine sufferers as a form of stress reduction. Studies have shown that floating in salt water lowers levels of stress hormones, reduces blood pressure, improves sleep and helps muscles recover from exercise
On the 11th September, The Migraine Association will hold the Irish premiere of the documentary, 100 Days of Vitamins Sea. The director, Beth Francis, suffers from chronic migraine and the the film documents the journey of Beth and her partner Andy, in their attempt to regain health and connect with the natural environment around them. Beth and Andy are now involved in a research project looking to apply the therapeutic benefits of cold-water swimming to help other migraineurs. The premier will be opened by Green Party Dublin City Councillor, Donna Cooney, who is herself an avid sea swimmer.
We are also partnering with a number of gyms who are holding “migraine friendly” exercise sessions and classes. To find out more about meet ups and events taking place during Migraine Awareness Week connect with us on social media @migraineireland, using the hashtags #joininfeelgood #freshairfitness #makemigrainematter
Please contact Debbie Hutchinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 086 8388886 to arrange an interview or for more information.
Research on Migraine and Exercise – Further information:
In a randomized controlled study in 2009, researchers from the University of Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska Academy analyzed how well exercise works as a preventative treatment for migraines relative to relaxation exercises and topiramate (a medication prescribed as a migraine preventative). The researchers randomly split 91 migraine sufferers into three groups. One group exercised for 40 minutes three times a week, another was given topiramate and the third group underwent regular relaxation exercises.
The scientists found that the rate of migraines fell in all three groups, and that each intervention was equally effective. They noted that for people who want to reduce migraines without the side effects of drugs, exercise may be a good alternative.
In a smaller study, the same researchers looked at 26 migraine sufferers before, during and after cycling sessions on stationary bikes at a clinic in Sweden. The subjects cycled three days a week for three months. At the end of the study, they saw improvements in cardiovascular fitness and reductions in the severity and frequency of migraines experienced and only one person suffered from a migraine related to the exercise.
The practice of Forest Bathing or its Japanese name, Shinrin-yoku, was developed in Japan in the 1980’s. Shinrin means forest and yoku means to bathe. Shinrin-yoku became part of the national public health program in Japan in 1982. Since the 1980’s a mounting body of evidence through Japanese research, has highlighted the potential health benefits of Forest Bathing. Forest Bathing is essentially a walk through a park or forest, guided by a forest therapist, and combines walking with mindfulness.
The potential health benefits of phytoncides, chemicals released by trees, are also an integral part of the forest bathing theory. Phytoncides are chemicals released by trees and plants, to protect them from insects and infection. Japanese studies have looked at immunity markers and stress levels before and after a two-hour forest walk, and found that stress hormones are significantly decreased and the numbers of natural killer cells (a type of white blood cell) are significantly increased.
Sea swimming could offer potential benefits for migraine sufferers as a form of stress reduction. Studies published in the journal of Psychology and Health have shown that floating in saltwater lowers levels of stress hormones, reduces blood pressure, improves sleep and helps muscles recover from exercise.
Other studies have found that these effects are possibly the result of the magnesium in the water. Studies have shown that migraineurs have low brain magnesium during migraine attacks and may also have a magnesium deficiency. Furthermore, magnesium deficiency may play a particularly important role in menstrual migraine.If you are exercising outdoors you are also exposed to sunlight improving levels of Vitamin D. During winter and autumn months when sunshine levels are low, ultraviolet radiation tends to be greater at the coast because of the effects that the landscape has on the clouds — put simply, more sunshine gets through.