Exercise and Epilepsy

People with epilepsy can play sports, provided that they follow some simple rules.


Exercise is beneficial for people who suffer from epileptic seizures. In fact, group sports activities can help individuals with epilepsy to socialise with their teammates, considerably improving their cognitive abilities, while learning to recognise their own abilities and limits.

Physical activities such as gymnastics are also beneficial, as they improve coordination. Once the patient has developed a good level of coordination, seizures will be less frequent, and particularly less violent.

Epilepsy: precautions before starting exercise

Before undertaking any physical activity, it is therefore necessary to follow some simple rules. In fact, it is necessary to consult your neurologist as well as a sports doctor, who could prescribe instrumental examinations, but most importantly will advise the epilepsy patient about the physical activities they can or cannot do.

In addition to visiting a doctor, before starting any physical activity, it is important to be aware that:

- Heart, lung and kidney functions will increase; therefore, there is a risk of altered water and salt balance following perspiration or the elevated consumption of calories, fat and protein. The balance of plasma concentration should be kept as stable as possible to avoid changes in the plasma concentration of the active substances absorbed during treatment.
- The concentration of sugars must also be kept under control.

In addition, an imbalance during epileptic syndrome can result from the mechanical actions exercised by the muscles and on the muscles via physical exercise. 

- Running, obstacle courses, high jump etc.: all these physical activities involve abrupt movements trigger the dilation of numerous muscles, making them contract rapidly, and can therefore trigger epileptic seizures.
- Tennis and squash: the vibrations of the ball felt in the hands and the feet should be avoided by patients with epilepsy.
- Swimming: in addition to the successive dilation and contraction of the muscles, the different between air and water temperature must also be taken into account. So, swimmers with epilepsy should make sure to enter the water slowly so as not to trigger thermal shock.
- Sports that require rotation of the head (discus, javelin, weight lifting etc.) are not advised for patients affected by epilepsy.

For further information: Epilepsy Society

Last updated: 1/27/18

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