Light to Moderate Exercise is a Beneficial Epilepsy Treatment
Research proves benefits. Gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a neurotransmitter which acts as a natural anticonvulsant. GABA is an inhibitor neurotransmitter, meaning it reduces the excitability of the neuron affected. Exercise decreases the pH of the blood, which is known as acidosis. Acidosis changes enzyme effectiveness which controls GABA metabolism, thus increasing GABA and further reducing emotions such as fear and anxiety, which trigger seizures. Adenosine, a by-product of energy metabolism and ATP utilization, also has an anticonvulsant effect (1).
To minimize the likelihood of ill effects, remember the following:
- It is always important to consult a health care professional before starting any fitness program. Every individual is different; discuss possible seizure triggers with your doctor and how to avoid them during exercise.
- Keep hydrated throughout your session. Always have a full water bottle for your workout and drink lots of water before and after.
- Avoid low blood sugar with a snack or drink such as Gatorade.
- Work hard enough to receive benefits but listen to your body and don’t work outside your comfort zone. Overexertion is never beneficial and may be a seizure trigger.
- Make sure that you begin with a very gradual warm-up and keep the intensity light to moderate.
Participating in sports is another form of exercise that shouldn’t be off-limit to epileptics. Sport participation has been a controversial topic in the past, especially with regards to contact sports. It has been concluded by many associations, for example the American Medical Association Committee, that participation in sport is not contraindicated.
1. Adrida RM, Cavalheiro EA, da Silva AC, Scorza FA. Physical activity and epilepsy: proven and predicted benefits. Sports Med. 2008; 38(7): 607-15. Review PubMed PMID: 18557661
2. Arida RM, Scorza FA, Terra VC, Scorza CA, de Almeida AC, Cavalheiro EA. Physical exercise in epilepsy: what kind of stressor is it? Epilepsy Behavior. 2009 Nov; 16 (3): 381-7. Review. PubMed PMID: 19836311
3. Dubow JS, Kelly JP. Epilepsy in sports and recreation. Sports Med. 2003; 33(7): 499-516. Review. PubMed PMID: 12762826