Does Exercise Help with Bipolar Disorder?
Everyone knows that exercise is good for your health. It is a no-brainer, and it is repeated so often that you have probably gotten tired of it. I know I should do some physical activity. It is good for my heart, my bones… blah, blah, blah.
On the other hand, aside from needing to exercise because I am getting old and tired – the idea, that exercise might be good for my Bipolar Disorder, might just motivate me to do it.
Nothing else has.
A research study conducted in 2012 showed that exercise may have positive benefits for people with Bipolar Disorder. I should have thought of that – but I didn’t (probably because I am bipolar and tend to ignore obvious things that might help me).
When asked – I have given advice to those who have depression (major depressive disorder, clinical depression, situational depression – or even bipolar depression). What I tell those people is in addition to taking their meds, they should get up. Get out of bed, get outside, and get some exercise – even if it is just around the kitchen. Exercise increases the blood supply to your brain and helps to rise your energy levels – even if you don’t want to, it will do you some good.
I give that advice to people when they are depressed, but I am not usually depressed. My disorder tends toward mania or at least a mixed mood state. So I don’t think about the need to increase my energy level.
Evidence has shown that exercise has some positive effects for people with Bipolar Disorder – even those that are not depressed. In addition to the obvious health benefits, it can help to regulate your mood levels and “bring structure to chaos”.
As “bipolar“, we are often subject to disorder. Disordered mind, disordered days, disordered environment. One of the biggest tools for a bipolar patient to get and keep their body and mind regulated is the establishment of a schedule.
Go to bed at bedtime (and not at 2 am when you fall asleep in front of the TV). Get up in the morning, go to work on time, eat on a schedule – and take your meds when you should.
Establishing a routine does, in fact, help to keep from extreme ups and downs.
Exercise can be a big part of this – and physically reinforce a schedule on your body – that then affects your brain. Just like getting up at the same time and going to sleep at the same time helps to establish a normal circadian rhythm – exercise can reinforce that in a big way.
There are other benefits to exercise as well. Physical activity naturally increases blood flow to the brain, which gives it the best chance of functioning at optimum level. It also helps to “clear out the cobwebs” that can be especially important if you are teetering on the edge.
Exercise can increase your self-esteem that may have taken many blows in the past. It can also increase social activity – that is apparently good for you, even if you don’t like people. I don’t.
In my opinion, the biggest benefit may be “getting in touch” with your body. When you exercise, you are more likely to stay within yourself. One of the greatest problems in people with any mental disorder, and one of the reasons why people abuse drugs or perform any other risky behavior is the inability to be comfortable within your skin. If you are exercising, you don’t really have a choice; you have to stay there. Over time, you feel better about yourself, you feel more comfortable there, and you learn what is and isn’t “normal” within your body.
Perhaps this can lead you to better response when something is going amiss – when you may be slipping into disorder.
Exercise and take your medicines!