Exercise and the Treatment of Bipolar Disorder

Exercise and the treatment of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder is a chemical illness of the brain.  Therefore, medication should be the foundation of your overall wellness plan.  Exercise plays a huge role in this foundation.


I use the word “foundation” because all the other coping skills that you utilize on a daily basis are the building blocks of your overall treatment plan.


Everyone that is diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder is unique in how their illness presents clinically.  Yes, there are diagnostic criteria that are similar across the board.  However, symptomology is as unique as each person.


Wellness Plan


A wellness plan is a treatment you follow daily to enhance your overall quality of life.  As I mentioned, medication management should be the foundation of this wellness plan.


The next level up should be exercise.  When I speak of exercise, you should find something to increase your heart rate daily.


There has been study after study that shows how exercise not only improves mood, but cardiovascular endurance, sleep, and regulation of appetite.  It also reduces blood pressure and helps to naturally regulate blood sugar levels.  These are general statements and each individual case is different.


Aerobic exercise is one of the best natural ways to help better your mood.  When you exercise, your body is flooded with endorphins and other good mood enhancing hormones.  Even doing a brisk walk for 20 minutes per day has these positive benefits.


Exercise Plan


The important thing about exercise is to pick something that you like so you will do it daily.  If you do not like to run, then try walking.  Maybe biking is a better fit for you.  Some individuals enjoy swimming because it is low impact.


Our goal is to find something to do daily for at least 20 minutes at a time.  Exercising will only make you feel better and improve your mood.  Our primary goal is to do this to increase our quality of life and with positive mood regulation.


If you are just starting out with a workout plan, make sure to check with your doctor before starting anything new.  I do not know your individual circumstances, and these are general recommendations.


One of my favorite activities is jogging.  I had a back injury that sidelined me the past 3 years, but I have spent the past few months strengthening my back and working with a physical therapist.


I perform a couple of sets of specific exercises each day to help my back.  Plus, go through a 20-minute workout Monday, Wednesday, and Friday each week.  I jog for a minute, walk for a minute, and repeat until 20 minutes have gone by.


Tuesday and Thursday, I perform light resistance training.


If I did not have my back issues, I would have a different workout.  That is why I stress the importance of chatting with your doctor before starting a workout program.


The Pyramid


I look at my overall treatment as a pyramid.  The base or foundation, of this pyramid, holds the rest of it up.  That foundation is medication management.


The next level up is exercise.  I strongly believe, and it has been my experience, that following an exercise program each day is the next best thing after medication. 


It has also been my experience to start a workout program before getting depressed.  Once you are exercising on a daily basis, it is easier to follow once a depressed episode shows its ugly face.


After exercise, most people will say the next level of the pyramid is talk therapy.  However, there may be a different coping skill or mechanism that helps improve your quality of life first.  I could write a whole other blog post about treatment plans.  The important take-home message here is to find something that works for you.


Comment below with coping strategies that help you.


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Until next time, take care of yourself! 😊