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According to Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago, approximately 10 percent of the population experiences headaches brought on by exercise or other physical activity. A headache occurs when the muscles or blood vessels in the head or neck swell, putting pressure on the surrounding nerves. The fact is, exercise can both trigger a headache as well as crush a headache. Because regular exercise improves blood flow to the brain, it can minimize blood vessel inflammation, therefore reducing headaches. But for others, the opposite can happen, depending on how you exercise. Recognizing these 5 triggers can help you avoid headaches and help you meet your fitness goals.

Sudden exertion

Going from zero to 50 when it comes to exercising can likely trigger a headache. Before running, taking a spin class, playing sports, weight lifting, or any other intense physical activity, warm-up first – five to 10 minutes of stretching or gentle movements to get your heart rate beating. And don’t forget to give yourself a cool down period after your finished working out as well.


Without a good balance of fluid and electrolytes, before, during, and after an intense workout, your body will rebel against you with a nasty headache. When the body uses up these essential fluids, the brain will pull away from the skull, causing you pain. Be sure to down at least 8 ounces of water before you work out, another half way through, and another one when you are finished.

Observe Air Quality

Environmental factors like poor air quality can trigger headaches; especially if you are prone to migraines or other chronic headache disorders while working out. If you enjoy being outdoors while working out, pay attention to air quality alerts for your area. If pollutants are high, move your workout inside.

Breathe properly

While techniques or philosophies (or opinions) may differ from exercise to exercise, the simple rule is to breathe as smoothly and efficiently to deliver the oxygen to your brain and body. And most certainly, do not hold your breath while exercising. Take the time to focus on your breathing to prevent headaches.


It’s important to have something on your stomach before working out, but what you put there could be the difference between a headache and not having a headache. While bananas, nuts, and smoothies are often go-to snacks for some before a workout, they can trigger headaches in others. If you are prone to headaches, skip the foods that have amino acid tyramine which are found in fruits, yogurt, and nuts.

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