Physical activity pattern and migraine according to aura symptoms in the Brazilian Longitudinal Study of Adult Health (ELSA-Brasil) cohort: A cross-sectional study

Headache. 2022 Sep;62(8):977-988. doi: 10.1111/head.14380. Epub 2022 Aug 26.


Objective: To estimate the associations of physical activity (PA) levels with migraine subtypes.

Background: Physical activity has been associated with reduced migraine prevalence, but less is known about its relationship with migraine subtypes and PA levels as recommended by World Health Organization (WHO).

Methods: In this cross-sectional analysis of the Brazilian Longitudinal Study of Adult Health (ELSA-Brasil), we estimated the odds ratios (ORs) of migraine with aura (MA) and migraine without aura (MO), compared to participants without headaches, according to PA levels in the leisure time (LTPA), commuting time (CPA), and combined PA domains.

Results: In total, 2773 participants provided complete data, 1556/2773 (56.1%) were women, mean (SD) age of 52.3 (9.1) years. In this study's sample, 1370/2773 (49.4%) participants had overall migraine, 480/2773 (17.3%) had MA, and 890/2773 (32.0%) had MO. In the LTPA domain, there were reduced odds of MA (OR 0.72, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.53-0.96; p = 0.030) and MO (OR 0.71, 95% CI 0.56-0.90; p = 0.005) in participants who met the WHO PA guidelines after adjustment for confounder variables. In the analyses stratified by intensity, moderate LTPA was associated with reduced odds of MA (OR 0.56, 95% CI 0.320-0.99; p = 0.049), while vigorous LTPA was associated with reduced odds of MO (OR 0.55, 95% CI 0.395-0.77; p = 0.001). There were no significant associations between migraine subtypes and CPA or combined PA domains. In the whole migraine sample, meeting the WHO PA guidelines in the LTPA (OR 0.275, 95% CI 0.083-0.90; p = 0.034), CPA (OR 0.194, 95% CI 0.064-0.58; p = 0.004), and combined domains (OR 0.115, 95% CI 0.032-0.41; p = 0.001) was associated with reduced odds of daily migraine attack frequency.

Conclusions: Meeting the WHO PA guidelines for LTPA, but not CPA or combined PA domains, is associated with lower migraine occurrence. Moderate LTPA favors MA reduction, while vigorous LTPA favors MO reduction.

Keywords: exercise therapy; migraine; migraine with aura; physical activity.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brazil / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Epilepsy*
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Migraine with Aura* / epidemiology