5 Things You Need to Know About Exercising With Epilepsy



This post is part of the Epilepsy Blog Relay™ which will run from March 1 to March 31, 2018. Follow along!

Day 5 of the Epilepsy Blog Relay™

In roughly 2 weeks, I will participate in The United Airlines Half Marathon as part of The Epilepsy Foundation of Metropolitan New York’s team. Excited about participating in a cause that is very dear to my heart and being apart of something bigger than myself I signed up immediately. After the adrenaline rush subsided and I was thinking with the full function of all my brain cells, it dawned on me. I haven’t been to the gym in years and I haven’t run since the track team in high school. My mind began to race and then the most concerning thought entered my head …

Ummmm… I didn’t have seizures then either!

Automatically, I began to talk myself out of running. I mean, this was a HALF MARATHON!! Not just 1, 2 or 5 miles but 13.5 miles of my legs and feet pressing against the concrete jungle of New York City for 2 to 3 hours. I had no clue if I could mentally and physically handle participating in the marathon. I didn’t consider how my seizures might effect my performance, energy or if I would have a seizure while running.

I began following a few groups, googled several websites on epileptic runners and acquired a bit of information from my older brother who has participated in a few marathons. I learned that like everyone else exercise is helpful in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. And very rarely does exercise trigger seizure activity. The majority of people with epilepsy experience benefits of exercise that far outweigh the risks. Exercise and being physically fit may lessen the risks of seizures. However, when you have a chronic illness like epilepsy or other seizure disorders, there are some things you must know and make sure to do as a precaution to ensure being fit doesn’t have a negative effect on your health.

  1. Know Your Limit!

We often try to push ourselves past what our body can handle. Causing our body to over work and become stressed. So it is very important to make sure we are doing our best to protect ourselves from the wear and tear. Keep your eyes on the look out for the following signs that tell you your body may be past it’s limit.

  1. Extreme exhaustion
  2. Dehydration
  3. Elevated blood sugar levels
  4. Elevated body temperature
  5. Insomnia

You can avoid these epilepsy triggering symptoms simply by making sure you take your medication regularly and on time. Making sure you consume a lot of water before, during and after exercising. Get at least 8 hours of sleep every night and plan 2 rest days a week not to exercise. Lastly, no matter what don’t push your body to physical exhaustion! I know your determined to meet your goals however slow and steady wins the race. Try to pace yourself so you reach your goals comfortably.  

2. Purchase Proper Gear!

I knew NOTHING about running! I mean I ran track in high school however, since then I have rarely exercised. Taking on this task meant purchasing the proper gear to make sure my body was supported throughout the training process and the marathon. Despite the differences in sports or exercising your body will need proper support to ensure you can safely participate without compromising your physical health. Especially since your health is already being compromised by the seizures. Take time to research and try different options available to you so you can enjoy exercising and not have to worry about the additional aches and pain you would experience outside of the usual body aches due to epilepsy.

3. Exercising Benefits Your Seizures!

Creating a regular exercise regimen can increase your energy, balance, coordination and improve the function of your organs. Illness such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, arthritis, osteoporosis or bone loss, and certain types of cancer can potentially be affected due to the increase of physical activity. It’s like the infamous saying, ” Exercise a day keeps the doctor away.”

Another benefit is an increase in regular sleep. According to Epilepsy.com, regular exercise can make it easier to fall asleep, stay asleep, and reach deep sleep. We all know how important sleep is in maintaining a lifestyle that enables us to navigate life successfully. Improved sleep can also lessen anxiety, depression, and the risk of breakthrough seizures.

4. Start Small!

Start small lengths of exercise, don’t tackle long periods right away! If you feel your body becoming tired easily, exercising roughly 15 to 20 minutes at a time helps your body adjust to this new level of physical activity.

Set a small goal and as you become familiar with exercising regularly, slowly increase your goal over time. Be realistic with what your body can handle and what you want to accomplish. It isn’t a competition!


5.  Safety First!

Aside from the usually safety precautions exercising entails. Wearing your medical alert bracelet or necklace or carrying a medical card is important!! Your name, type of seizures or disorder should be printed in plain sight along with the type of medication you are currently taking and any medication you are allergic to. It is important that if you have a seizure at the gym or while using exercise equipment or running someone can notify EMS and accurately convey what is happening so you receive the proper treatment immediately.

All of which are necessary to ensure that someone with epilepsy can successfully endure the stress of physical activities daily without the risk of harming or over excreting themselves. The use of a device with a GPS locator is also another great way for your loved ones to track you in case you have a seizure and need help. If you are really on top of things you could pre program emergency contacts in your notes or an easily accessible place so anyone could assist you if necessary.

So if your still apprehensive about getting out there and giving exercise a try, check out a study in the journal Epilepsy & Behavior reported general and mental health benefits of exercise, as well as how exercise may improve seizure control. Research concluded that people living with epilepsy should exercise with the support of their neurologists and loved ones.