Exercise and Epilepsy

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a medical condition that effects the brain. We can all have a one-off seizure however people are diagnosed with epilepsy if they have more than one seizure. The common form of epilepsy we all see and know is when someone has convulsions. Epilepsy can also occur when abnormal electrical activity happens in the brain causing a loss of consciousness, or episodes of sensory disturbance – someone seeming very distant and staring into space.


With over 600,000 people in the UK alone effected it is one of the most common serious neurological conditions in the world. In half of the cases doctors do not know what has caused a person to have epilepsy. Some causes which are associated with epilepsy include strokes, head injury, meningitis (brain infection), lack of oxygen at birth https://www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/what-is-epilepsy

Current barriers to exercise for people who suffer with epilepsy include fear of injury, lack of social support and exercise induced seizures.


Exercise and Epilepsy

Cardiovascular exercise is reported to be beneficial to people who suffer from epilepsy. Technology now allows for easier monitoring of our heart rate, meaning we know what intensity we are working at. We can also use the rate of perceived exertion scale. This may be more suitable method of monitoring exercise intensity as certain medications can mean a false reading – meaning the heart rate does not reflect the intensity you are working at.

Resistance training will be beneficial due to the associated benefit, in particular that of increased bone strength. Certain epilepsy medications may weaken the bones structure therefore strength training helps counteract this.

The real positive for people who have epilepsy and exercised is fewer seizures than those that did not exercise. We should point out that 1-2% those with epilepsy that exercise can suffer from induced seizures.

Other benefits included positive effects on secondary factors associated with epilepsy, anxiety and depression. As well as reduced body fat, increased muscle mass, improved cardiovascular health,

Due to the effects of medications it important to always stay hydrated and take sips of water throughout your session.


What to do?

Consult you doctor, some medications may mean contact sport are an option. This will be dependant on the type of epilepsy and medication

Cardiovascular – start slowly and build up the time and intensity you work at for you

Resistance training – look to start with a weight you can use for 12-15 repetitions for 2-3 sets. Gains in fitness and strength do occur with just sub maximal effort, we do not have to go eyeballs out to reap the rewards.

Key points from people who exercised with epilepsy were that of overheating, exercise intensity and exercising when tired can trigger seizures. They adapted their training to take a rest day if they felt tired, exercised at cooler times and starting at intensities suitable to them.

Develop self-management techniques enabling you the most consistent exercise routine.

Exercise with a friend to help build your confidence

Sleep: get a good nights sleep and eat healthily.

When deciding what to do, consider doing something that you enjoy. Something I read on the noticeboard today at Sussexport about getting results holds true: show up, show up again, show up consistently. Consistency is key to helping improve your fitness and getting the results you are after.


Have fun and be aware of your own symptoms. We are all individuals, reacting and adapting differently.