How Exercise Can Help Bipolar Disorder

Exercise and bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that can cause low, depressive moods and high, manic moods. While most people have mild mood swings from time to time, for people with bipolar disorder, these mood swings can be extreme and unpredictable.

Bipolar disorder is typically managed with medication and therapy. However, studies have shown that for some people, adding exercise to their treatment plan can provide added benefits. Read on to learn more about the effects that exercise can have on bipolar disorder.

Exercise and mood challenges of bipolar disorder

For most people, exercise can have a positive effect on their mood. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which are known as the brain’s “feel-good” chemicals. Over time, higher levels of endorphins can make you feel better. This is why exercise is often recommended for people with depression. Exercise can also help you combat stress.

Because of these benefits, it’s easy to assume that working out might help people with bipolar disorder. A review of studies in 2015 found that can be true — but not always.

For instance, one study in the review found that for some people with bipolar disorder, exercise helped ease hypomanic symptoms, which are less severe than manic symptoms. It also helped people sleep better. In addition, the study showed that certain exercises could provide a calming effect for some people. These exercises include walking, running, and swimming.

However, that same study noted that for other people with bipolar disorder, exercise could exacerbate manic symptoms. It could cause a worsening “spiraling” effect for both manic and hypomanic episodes.

Other studies have found similar results. In one study from 2013, researchers created a program that combined exercise, nutrition, and wellness training for overweight people with bipolar disorder. They noted that the program did result in improvements to health and weight. It also reduced symptoms of depression in participants, and improved their overall functioning. However, they noted that their results also indicated that exercise could worsen manic symptoms.

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