Physical Activity Influences Migraine Risk in Men and Women

The mechanisms that drive this benefit are not well-understood, and it is believed that the benefit
The mechanisms that drive this benefit are not well-understood, and it is believed that the benefit
Canadian researchers found data that showed social determinants of health are linked to migraine prevalence across sexes.

Physical activity is a potential modifiable lifestyle factor that may influence the odds of migraine in both men and women, a study in Headache reports. Additionally, the study found that sexual orientation and perceived social status may affect migraine prevalence.

Cross-sectional baseline data from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging, including data for 22,176 women and 21,549 men, were collected. Patients included in the analysis were aged between 45 and 85 years and had a self-reported migraine diagnosis by a physician. Multidimensional measures of aging, including lifestyle, behavior, and sociodemographic factors, were collected at baseline. Data regarding total household income, education level, perceived social standing, social support, and physical activity, as well as lifetime migraine prevalence, were also measured.

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For men and women, the weighted migraine prevalence was 7.5% and 19.6%, respectively. In women, a higher perceived social status correlated with a 3% lower odds of migraine (odds ratio [OR], 0.97; 95% CI, 0.95-0.98; P <.001). Compared with men who are heterosexual, men who identified as gay and bisexual had a 50% higher odds of migraine (OR, 1.50; 95% CI, 1.13-1.99; P =.005). For women, walking for an average of 30 minutes and <1 hour per day was associated with a reduced odds of migraine (OR, 0.87; 95% CI, 0.78-0.96; P =.005).

Reduced odds of migraine in women were also associated with participation in light sport activities for <30 minutes (OR, 0.86; 95% CI, 0.73-1.00; P =.048) and for 1 hour but <2 hours (OR, 0.85; 95% CI, 0.74-0.97; P =.018), as was participation in strenuous sports for 30 minutes, but <1 hour (OR, 0.79; 95% CI, 0.71-0.89; P <.001) and for 1 hour but <2 hours (OR, 0.82; 95% CI, 0.73-0.92; P =.001). A higher odds of migraine was found in men who engaged in daily leisure walking for <30 minutes (OR, 1.21; 95% CI, 1.01-1.45; P =.042), for 2 hours but <4 hours (OR, 1.42; 95% CI, 1.11-1.80; P =.005), and for ≥4 hours (OR, 1.65; 95% CI, 1.18-2.31; P =.004).

Limitations of the study were the cross-sectional design, as well as the exclusion of First Nations persons living on reserves and settlements across Canada.

According to the investigators, the findings from this study “can inform the development of upstream policy approaches that promote health equity and access to migraine care.”

Disclosure: None of the study authors declared affiliations with the pharmaceutical industry. Please see the original reference for a full list of authors’ disclosures.


Hammond NG, Stinchcombe A. Health behaviors and social determinants of migraine in a Canadian population-based sample of adults aged 45-85 years: findings from the CLSA [published online August 2, 2019.] Headache. doi:10.1111/head.13610