Why do I get headaches when I exercise?

reader questionsSome reasons why women get headaches when they exercise -

Mary from Australia asked – “Why do I always get headaches when I exercise at the gym? It is very annoying and sometimes they get so bad I have to stop.”

I bet it is annoying Mary! I’ll talk about a few possibilities.

Why women might get headaches when they exercise

Here are some reasons why women might get headaches when they exercise as well as some other important suggestions.

1. You must see a doctor
The first thing that has to be said about this point is that you need to see your doctor. If you have consistent headaches that do not seem to be getting any better it is vital you get a check up and some tests because it could be an indication of something more serious.

On the other hand, a blood test takes five minutes and from that your doctor could tell you it is something quite simple and easy to fix. This has happened to me more than once. I thought it was something serious and it turned out to be nothing and easily solved. This can save you hours of headache pain and make your exercise time fun again.

Don’t put it off! Women love to put off the doctor.

2. Dehydration
One of the most common reasons people get headaches at the gym is because they are not keeping their fluids up. One of the first symptoms that you are dehydrated is a headache so as soon as you feel the pain you should jump off the treadmill and go and have a drink.

What people don’t realize about dehydration is that the symptoms only show up once you are already dehydrated. It is not like they are telling you it is about to happen – you are already there. This means you need to treat it right away.

3. Bad posture/technique
When I was first starting out at kung fu I got very bad headaches because my technique was very poor. I was putting too much energy into certain moves and as such I put unnecessary strain on my neck. Hurting your neck is one of the best ways to get a headache when you are working out.

If you suspect it might be your technique then stop the exercise that makes the headache worse and avoid it for a few sessions. See if the headaches come back and if they don’t you know it was that exercise.

4. High heels
I was talking to a friend of mine recently (sorry I can’t remember who!) and they were telling me that their doctor had mentioned that walking around in high heels all day and then changing to sneakers and going for a run can be an indirect cause of headaches if the heels have put your back out of whack.

Many women do not realize that, while heels look great, they can have a negative impact on your back, ankles and hips. They should not be worn for too long at a time.

5. The iPod
Another thing I have found is that people forget that loud music can give you a headache. They are on the treadmill running a hundred miles an hour and the music is keeping them going so they turn it up and up and up. This is a sure-fire way to give yourself a headache.

6. Blood sugar
Low blood sugar happens to all of us when we exercise but it can be a bigger problem for some people. Many diabetics get headaches when their blood sugar gets too low and it is another reason to see your doctor to make sure it isn’t going to be more of a problem than it needs to be.

For the rest of us, make sure you eat something half an hour before you go to the gym to do an intense workout. Just last week I was doing my leg workout with a friend and had a terrible headache. I was trying to figure out why I had it and I realized I had overslept and in my hurry to get to the gym to meet my friend I had skipped breakfast. That means I was working out without eating for over 8 hours!

7. Blood flow
Some exercises can cause the blood to flow to places too quickly or not fast enough. If you are getting headaches it might be that you are bent over too much and the blood is all rushing to your head.

There are many possibilites but 9 times out of 10 the problem can be solved by a quick visit to your doctor. This not only might help to cure the headache, it can also relieve a lot of stress and worry that you might have.

Any one here (other than Mary!) get headaches?

Got any questions? We’ll answer them on our forum!

About Katie

Katie has transformed her body from a flabby 186lbs, to a fit & toned 124 pounds through healthy diet and exercise. Katie joined the Lean Curves team in 2007 and has posted hundreds of articles on fitness, fat loss and healthy eating.


  1. Fay says:

    This is a really useful post.

    As stupid as it sounds I hadn’t thought to turn down my ipod! I feel a bit dumb now!

    Thanks RT.

  2. JANE says:

    I never knew that about dehydration and the symptoms only happening once you are already in the state of dehydration. That is something good to know and which I thought they would have made us more aware of.


  3. Mickele says:

    I also get headaches, When i went for a trial week at a kung fu place my head got so sore after a while the guy was hammering us i was new there so i had not exercised in a while.My head was pounding so bad i might be unfit

  4. Dragonfly says:

    I am a bit disturbed by the women who wrote she took a kung fu trial class and some “guy was hammering us.” Not sure what type of class you were taking but when you first start begin training in kung fu your teacher should focus on getting your body and mind conditioned for more advanced training. In my opinion, anyone who takes a beginner and starts pummeling them does not have a good understanding of what martial arts training is. Yes, there is a self defense component (not just an excuse to hit others) but just as much real martial arts trains you to become aware enough to avoid conflict. Become “more like water” in your thinking and you might find those headaches go away.

    On the other hand, I experience frequent sinus headaches and have found that cleaning up my diet and acupuncture to be very helpful. Watch what you eat because doing a difficult work out will just bring dietary issues to the forefront and may result in things like too much chi going upward.

  5. Lou says:

    I suffer with dehydration quite badly, infact I used to get headaches constantly because I was only drinking around 3 glasses of water a day. Whenever I do sport I do get dehydrated, I start off playing fine, my lips go dry (which is personally my first sign of it) and then it results in an annoying headache. It takes about 5-10 minutes sitting down for it to go away and then I’m fine again after a nice glass of water.

  6. adiveney says:

    its terrible i have alot of belly fat enough that i look about 6 months preggo really embrassed so i started walking aroung my neighborhood and doin like 50 sit ups a night . i have a headaches every night like i just ran a marathon im really concerned help?

  7. glenda says:

    what if its not your posture or dehydration? I run outside and inside and I’ve been getting these awful headaches. they start at the forehead and spread to the back of my head. After my 1st 5k, i had a headache that lasted the rest of the day and nothing i took helped with the pain. i told my doctor about it but he couldn’t give me an answer as to what the cause could be. any more suggestions?

  8. Manuela says:

    I get headaches almost everyday since I started excersizing. I do about a 20-30 min a day walk or bike ride or tread mill every day. I am 44 yrs old and weigh 130 lb. Not in bad shape so I cant understand why I get headaches and dehydration the next day. I am more tired and feel awful in the morning when I work out then when I dont. Please help!

  9. Elizabeth says:

    There is another reason you can get headaches from running: the treadmill has too much cushioning! I have had terrible muscle spasms and headaches from running on two different treadmills that had too much cushion. When I tried other treadmills, no problem. I thought I was going crazy but sure enough that was the cause.

  10. Pam says:

    I am surprised that it is not on the list but I believe a big reason for the workout headaches is likely a tight ponytail or headband. If I start to get a headache I take out my pony tail or take off my headband and feel almost instant relief. Sometimes I will wear loose braids or a low, looser pony tail to prevent it. I do have longer hair so I realize that the weight of it is a factor however even just a tight headband may cause the same effect.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>