Working Out With Epilepsy
Last updated: July 2022
There is so much mixed information about exercising with any type of seizure disorder. I want to start off by saying that I'm going to give you my personal experience and the latest information I have on this topic. However, no one knows your condition better than your neurologist. Never take anyone's perspective over their direction!
Misinformation about exercising with epilepsy
In the United States, data has shown individuals with epilepsy reduce the amount of exercise they perform. This is understandable due to outdated information from the past. Physical activity was discouraged for people with epilepsy until the 1970s. In 1974, The American Medical Association (AMA) permitted participation in contact sports if "to do so is considered a major ameliorating factor in the patient's adjustment to school, associates and the seizure disorder." AMA does go on in their research article with different stipulations.1
Again, personally, I believe these should be addressed with your neurologist since they understand your condition the best.
Case study on working out and epilepsy
There was also a case study in Norway that showed positive results between regular exercise and epilepsy. In the study, a group of women with uncontrolled seizures showed improvement in the number of seizures they were experiencing. The case study consisted of 60 minutes of exercise twice a week for a duration of 15 weeks. During this time the women were performing aerobic exercises.2
Fears about having a seizure during a workout
A huge stumbling stone for exercise is being exhausted from having seizures or because of the lovely side effects medication tends to give us. There is also the greatest concern of all... Having a seizure while working out. These are all valid and reasons that the idea of exercise (consistently) can feel overwhelming and incredibly scary.
There is of course a possibility you might have a seizure during your workouts. My recommendation is to work out with a buddy or in a class setting. You can call the gym or facility and verify that they understand seizure first aid.
The benefits of exercise
Alright... Time for those amazing benefits that make overcoming these very valid concerns feel worth it. You read the positive results mentioned above from the Norway case study. Additional benefits of exercise include:2
- Boosts energy
- Boosts positive mood
- For some people, reduces the number of their seizures
- Helps reduce anxiety and depression
- It also can give people a feeling of control over an aspect of their life that can feel out of control
My newest commitment to my epilepsy journey
In general, I was not consistent in working out. I tried to be, but in the end, I always decided that something else was more important than to commit to the potential health benefits of working out.
Then, I had a not-so-positive life event happen. My view and priorities changed on many things. One of the changes I have made and I'm 100% committed to is kickboxing! I started at "I Love Kickboxing." Even being horrible at it, I love it! I just committed to the membership before I could talk myself out of it. I didn't want to continue my pattern of diminishing my health needs for whatever excuse I was going to use.
Now I am financially invested and have accountability. Accountability is key for me! The owner is such a kind woman, too. I am grateful to have found this place and an understanding that I am putting my health first.
How exercise can help symtpoms
The moral of my story is that for me, and many others, exercise can make a huge difference. I do have anxiety and it has been lessened since I started my new journey. My low energy levels are rising and my general feeling of empowerment is overwhelming in the best way.
I am personally grateful for my decision to commit to furthering my health journey and goal of reducing the amount of medication I need to stay seizure-free. And I can't wait to read your thoughts about working out with epilepsy – please share in the comments below.
Have you had neurosurgery for your epilepsy?
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