The Best Exercises When You Have A Headache

Exercise is important for a healthy lifestyle. Not only does it lower your risk of heart disease and improve your mood (per MayoClinic), but it can also get rid of headaches. The exact mechanism that causes headaches is unknown. However, scientists do know that when you have a headache, specific nerves get activated that affect muscles and blood vessels. From there, the nerves send pain signals to the brain, according to Cleveland Clinic.

Headaches are one of the most common ailments. Between 50% to 75% of all adults ages 18 to 65 will experience a headache within a year. For an unlucky 2% to 4% of the world's population, they will experience headaches 15 or more days every month, notes the World Health Organization (WHO). The good news is that certain types of exercise can bring relief from tension headaches, and might help prevent them from occurring so often (via Premier Health). Next time you're suffering from an aching or pounding head, go ahead and try one of these exercises and find out how much better you might feel.

Yoga and stretching can alleviate the tension

If the thought of a strenuous workout when you have a headache doesn't sound good to you at all, don't worry. Forget busting out the burpees, and bring out the yoga mat instead. Not only is yoga beneficial for your body – improving flexibility, for one (per Healthline) — but it can release tension in your head and neck. When it comes to taming a tension headache, "If I had to pick one workout, I'd say that yoga would be perfect," Dr. Merle Diamond told WebMD. "It helps you stretch and unwind your body, improve your posture...and breathe more slowly — all things that can help reduce a headache in the moment."

When you don't have the time or inclination for a full yoga session, you still can benefit even from some simple stretches. Trunk rotation, standing lumbar extension, and neck rotation are all helpful for not only alleviating tension but also fixing posture, according to the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS).

Cardio can lower stress and release tightness

Stress is a common trigger of tension headaches. Stress can cause tightness in the muscles of the shoulders and neck, which in turn can lead to a tension headache, which feels like tight pressure around your forehead or back of your head and neck (per Harvard Health). This is no fun. One of the best ways to relieve stress — and get rid of that headache — is to get moving. 

Going for a light jog, spending time on the elliptical, or simply taking a walk around your neighborhood can ease any tension in your neck and shoulders, helping soothe your headache pain, according to WebMD. Furthermore, when you engage in aerobic exercise, you can expect to experience an endorphin rush. Endorphins, released in the body after heart-pumping activity, are the body's natural painkillers that not only can ease that aching head but help boost your mood (via Healthline). If you feel a headache coming on, WebMD recommends warming up slowly and keeping your activity on the light side, so as not to trigger a worse one.