How Exercise Can Help You To Manage Bipolar Disorder


Contributed by: Abshar Faheem


Introduction to bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a condition linked with episodes of mood swings ranging from depressive low to manic highs. In general, people go through mild shifts in mood from time to time, however, in bipolar disorder, people go through intense and unpredictable mood shifts. This condition can be controlled and managed with therapy and medication. As per research, it’s been observed that for some people, combining exercise with their treatment plan can give additional benefits.


Exercise and mood swings – The Connection

For some people, exercise can have a positive impact on their mood. When you exercise, the body discharges endorphins, a chemical called the brain’s ‘feel-good’ chemicals. With time, heightened levels of endorphins can make you feel fresh. Hence, physical exercise is usually suggested for people with depression. Exercise can also assist you to fight against stress. As exercise offers numerous benefits, it is assumed that it can also help people with bipolar disorder. However, it can be true but not always. Another study has shown that for some people with bipolar disorder, exercise assisted them to ease their hypomanic symptoms which are less aggressive than manic symptoms. The infusion of exercising also assisted the study’s subjects to get adequate sleep.

The study also revealed that specific exercises can contribute to a relaxing impact for some people. These exercises may include walking, running, and swimming. In one study conducted in 2013, researchers introduced a program that merged exercise, nutrition, and wellness training for people who are overweight and have bipolar disorder. Researchers recorded that the program had resulted in improvements in health and weight. 

It also decreased the signs and symptoms of depression in participants and developed their overall general functioning. But, they also recorded that their outcomes also showed that exercise might worsen manic symptoms.


Diseases connected to bipolar disorder

Besides extreme mood swings, people with bipolar disorder can be affected by other serious health conditions such as obesity, stroke, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. As per researchers, developing these health conditions can also increase your symptoms of bipolar disorder. These health risks can be increased due to a sedentary lifestyle or being physically inactive for long periods. It is shown that people who are affected by mental illness are more sedentary than people without mental illness. And people with bipolar disorder and mental illness are mostly found to be sedentary. Therefore, exercise, the reverse of a sedentary lifestyle, can decrease your risk of getting these other health problems connected with bipolar disorder. It can assist you to control your weight, and decrease your risk of stroke, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.


The connection between weight gain and medications for bipolar disorder

Obesity can be a major issue for people with bipolar disorder. In certain scenarios, people can gain weight by consuming medications for bipolar disorder. These medications may cause metabolic mutations that stops your body from burning calories as efficiently as it used to do. Or other drugs can also enhance your appetite. If you observe that you start gaining weight after taking medications for bipolar disorder, address it with your healthcare provider or doctor immediately.

People with unmanaged weight gain should try different medications with the approval of their doctor. It is also recommended not to stop taking medication for bipolar disorder with your doctor’s consultation. In general, extending the number of exercises you do may help you to lose weight. Basically, Exercise can burn your calories and can develop muscles, both of which can assist you to drop your weight.


Exercise and bipolar disorder: Final thoughts

Bipolar disorder is a chronic and life-long medical condition that can be controlled with proper treatment. Medication can be the primary treatment but exercise can also help you to manage it. In several cases, exercise can decrease your symptoms of bipolar disorder and reduce the risk of other serious medical conditions connected with bipolar disorder.

People who are affected by bipolar disorder are advised to do exercise for at least 30 minutes every day or 3 to 5 days a week. Hence, discuss with your doctor to incorporate exercises in your treatment plan. Work with your healthcare provider to identify the best exercise for you to manage your bipolar disorder.


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