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Exercise and epilepsy

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Exercise and epilepsy

Exercise improves fitness, energy and mood and relieves stress. Improving overall health and wellbeing in this way can help reduce seizures and the impact of epilepsy for some people. It can also help people feel more in control of their health.

How can exercise help epilepsy?

Exercise helps people to stay fit and healthy. If you have epilepsy, this may help to reduce the number of seizures you have. Exercise can also improve mood and relieve stress. As stress is a common trigger for seizures, exercise may help to prevent seizures for some people.

The NHS recommends exercise as one of the five steps to mental wellbeing. Being active may help you feel more positive and able to get the most from life.

Can I do exercise if I'm tired or ill?

You may not feel like doing exercise if you are tired due to seizures or because of the side effects of your medication. However, even gentle exercise can actually boost energy levels.

Some people with epilepsy may worry about doing in exercise in case they hurt themselves during a seizure. In fact, some research has shown that regular sessions of aerobic exercise (for example running, walking, swimming, or cycling) can result in a significant reduction in the number of seizures for some people, as well as having other health benefits. So being active and maintaining a healthy diet can help your overall health.

How do I start?

It can help to start with a short, regular session of activity that feels manageable and that becomes part of your daily routine. Some ideas to help you start and keep going with exercise include the following:

  • Go for short walks regularly, and gradually increase the distance.
  • Do exercise to music that you enjoy.
  • Drink water, diluted fruit juice or squash while you exercise, to help replace the fluids and body salts you lose.
  • Do not exercise straight after a meal.

Warming up and stretching

The NHS gives advice on how to warm up before exercising, and how to stretch after exercising. Stretching can also help relieve stress because it releases tension from your muscles, making you feel more relaxed.

Visit the NHS website to find stretching exercises.

What types of exercise can I do?

Exercise does not have to mean joining a gym or running in the park – walking is one of the easiest and safest forms of exercise that most people can do. Walking with a friend means they can help if you have a seizure. If you walk alone, you may feel safer using well-known routes and taking a mobile phone with you. Some people carry medical ID that tells other people how to help them if they have a seizure.

Relaxing acitivities such as tai chi or yoga are other great ways to exercise but extreme breathing techniques in yoga may need extra care. The key is to find the exercise or sport that feels right for you. 
Visit nhs.uk/live-well/exercise

Diet, energy and health

Even if you find it hard to do exercise, there are many ways that you can adapt your diet to help you to feel healthier, sleep better and have more energy. This may in turn help you feel more like doing exercise.

Information updated: May 2022

Sleep and epilepsy

Having a good night's sleep helps our brains to recover from the day's events, so that we can function well the next day. For some people with epilepsy a lack of sleep can make seizures more likely to happen, for others having seizures at night can make them feel tired during the day.

Taken from our 'Exercise and sport' factsheet