Epilepsy and physical exercise

Seizure. 2015 Feb:25:87-94. doi: 10.1016/j.seizure.2014.09.015. Epub 2014 Oct 14.


Epilepsy is one of the commonest neurologic diseases and has always been associated with stigma. In the interest of safety, the activities of persons with epilepsy (PWE) are often restricted. In keeping with this, physical exercise has often been discouraged. The precise nature of a person's seizures (or whether seizures were provoked or unprovoked) may not have been considered. Although there has been a change in attitude over the last few decades, the exact role of exercise in inducing seizures or aggravating epilepsy still remains a matter of discussion among experts in the field. Based mainly on retrospective, but also on prospective, population and animal-based research, the hypothesis that physical exercise is prejudicial has been slowly replaced by the realization that physical exercise might actually be beneficial for PWE. The benefits are related to improvement of physical and mental health parameters and social integration and reduction in markers of stress, epileptiform activity and the number of seizures. Nowadays, the general consensus is that there should be no restrictions to the practice of physical exercise in people with controlled epilepsy, except for scuba diving, skydiving and other sports at heights. Whilst broader restrictions apply for patients with uncontrolled epilepsy, individual risk assessments taking into account the seizure types, frequency, patterns or triggers may allow PWE to enjoy a wide range of physical activities.

Keywords: Benefits; Comorbidities; Epilepsy; Physical exercise; Risks.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Sports