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The Effect of Physical Activity on Headaches in Adolescents

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 — Poster Session III

12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

FAES Academic Center



* FARE Award Winner


  • D Lameira
  • T Lateef
  • JP He
  • K Merikangas


Numerous studies have discovered the benefits of regular physical activity. Increased physical activity and fitness is associated with reduced medical problems, like severe headaches, which are reported in 17.1% of children (Lateef et al., 2009). Studies have found that exercise activates neural systems that may reduce the intensity of migraine pain (Ahn, 2013). The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of physical activity on headaches in adolescents. Participants were individuals aged 4 to 19 years (N= 11,466) who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Participants were asked about TV/computer time, and if they walked or bicycled, or engaged in moderate exercise, vigorous exercise, or muscle strengthening in the past thirty days. Females aged 12-15 years who reported muscle strengthening activity were more likely to have headaches, whereas older adolescents who reported vigorous exercise or muscle strengthening were less likely to have headaches. These findings suggest that an exercise intervention in older adolescents with severe or frequent headaches could cause a reduction in headaches.

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