Being active and exercising, in recreational activities or sports can improve mental, emotional and physical health. It’s important for everyone and should also be encouraged for people with epilepsy Very rarely, exercise is a trigger for seizure activity. For the vast majority of people with epilepsy, the benefits of exercise far outweigh the risks.  

Common sense dictates that certain activities may need special accommodations or should be avoided. However, most sports are safe for people with epilepsy to participate in, even if seizures are not fully controlled. However, the greater and more severe a person’s seizures, the greater the need for that person to limit or modify athletic activities and consult with their doctor about any recommended restrictions.

Water Sport Safety

Water sports, including swimming, snorkeling, jet-ski riding, windsurfing, and sailing, are risky for people with epilepsy, but with a few accommodations they may be safely pursued by some people:

  • Always have a buddy with swimming or water sports.
  • At least one person in the activity or observing it should be aware of the possibility of seizures and know basic life-saving     techniques.
  • Always wear a high-quality, properly fitted life vest when near the water.
  • Always wear a medic alert bracelet or necklace.

Contact Sports

Contact sports such as football, rugby, basketball, soccer, and ice hockey are generally safe for people with seizures. People may worry about the chance of head or bodily injury, which is common in these sports. The risk of concussions is a concern for all persons playing contact sports. People with epilepsy have no greater chance for injury during these sports than people without epilepsy. The chances of serious injury are small compared with the positive effects of team participation. Consider the following:

  • Repeat concussions are a serious problem for all individuals, including those with epilepsy.
  • Consider the type and frequency of seizures when thinking about these sports. What would happen if you had a seizure while playing football, hockey or soccer?
  • Talk to your doctor about your risks and for individual recommendations.
  • Always wear the recommended protective gear for each sport. 

General Exercise and Recreation

Most individuals with epilepsy can safely exercise in a gym and use most exercise equipment. For those who have uncontrolled seizures, use a buddy system. Especially when using equipment such as treadmills, weights, or even bike riding. Remember the following:

  • When riding a bike, avoid busy streets. Try bike paths or quiet residential streets instead. Don’t forget a helmet!
  • Walking is even easier and doesn’t cost anything. Use the same ideas – avoid busy streets and walk with a buddy.
  • Take frequent breaks and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Always wear a medic alert bracelet or necklace and carry a medic alert card.
  • Consider utilizing a seizure alert system or GPS tracking devices available on most mobile phones.  

 Activities to Avoid

People with uncontrolled seizures should avoid dangerous activities like scuba diving, rock climbing, skydiving, hang gliding and mountain climbing. These sports require full concentration, and any episode of loss of consciousness may lead to injury and possible death.