National Physical Therapy Month – Part 4: Exercise helps improve daily functioning in patients with bipolar disorder

National Physical Therapy Month – Part 4: Exercise helps improve daily functioning in patients with bipolar disorder

Patients with bipolar disorder manifest mood swings, ranging between highs and lows. Medications do help manage the problem, but the need to introduce changes in lifestyle cannot be ignored, keeping in mind the increasing number of Americans getting dependent on medicines every year. The “National Physical Therapy Month” is observed in October every year to stress on the importance of physical therapy in the treatment of health disorders.  

Regular exercise increases secretion of endorphins

Stressing on how exercise can keep mood swings at bay, Dr. Louisa Sylvia, a psychologist at the Bipolar Clinic and Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said that exercise, if done regularly, can help avert episodes of bipolar depression. Those suffering from bipolar disorder may also seek treatment for anxiety or resort to substance abuse for self-medication. Light aerobic exercises, coupled with walking and running, can help patients rid of depressive episodes, characteristic of bipolar disorder.

According to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, regular exercise can help patients get sound sleep, which in turn can help circumvent mood disorders. Prior studies have indicated regular exercise increases the secretion of endorphins. As elevated levels of endorphins can help alleviate symptoms of any kind of mental health disorder, the same is recommended as a part of experiential therapies adopted during treatment of bipolar disorder.

Improvement in muscular fitness results in increased walking capability

Most bipolar patients are found to be afflicted with muscle weakness problems. It is unclear as to how and to what extent the performance of daily activities gets affected in bipolar disorder. A group of scientists aimed to study if the symptoms associated with depressive behavior and muscular fitness independently affect the walking ability of bipolar disorder patients.

The researchers of the study, titled “Depressive symptoms and muscular fitness contribute independently to the ability to perform daily life activities in people with bipolar disorder,” examined depression signs, muscular fitness and walking ability in 42 bipolar disorder patients.

For the study, published online in the Nordic Journal of Psychiatry in August 2016, the patients took part in a standing broad jump test to test their muscular fitness prior to a six-minute walk test. The scientists also carried out full-fasting metabolic screenings of the patients. The respondents were then required to fill their physical activity questionnaires and self-report about their depressive symptoms. It was observed that 38 percent participants had metabolic syndrome, while 56 percent smoked.

Investigation of the test results revealed that the distance covered by the respondents during their six-minute walk strongly corresponded with how high they jumped during the broad jump. The study said, “Better performance on both physical fitness tests was significantly associated with higher physical activity levels expressed as the sum of weekly minutes per week and the sum of weekly (metabolic equivalent) MET-minutes per week.”

The study said that advanced age, extended duration of illness, increased number of cigarettes smoked and aggravated depressive manifestations were significantly linked to a decreased rate of performance on both physical fitness tests.

Based on the observations, the scientists wrote that there was a need to take muscular fitness into consideration while taking into account the daily activities of people afflicted with bipolar disorder. A holistic treatment involving multiple therapeutic interventions of those aggrieved because of bipolar must aim to ameliorate muscular fitness to maintain working capability.

Scope for recovery

Medical practitioners can consider advising their bipolar patients about the effects of muscular rehabilitation methods to improve their day-to-day activities. As depressive symptoms and muscular fitness affect the functioning of bipolar patients, patients can resort to exercise to promote muscular fitness which in turn would smoothen performance of bipolar disorder patients.

Exercise alone does not help. It needs to be done in conjunction with proper medications, psychotherapy and proper lifestyle in accordance with advice from professional experts. If you or your loved one is suffering from any mental health issue, consult Sovereign Mental Health Services for the best treatment. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-973-7164 or chat online to understand all about the mental health programs and to know about our various mental health centers in the U.S.

Read the articles of the series “National Physical Therapy Month”:

  1. Adopt fitness regimen to improve mental health
  1. Physical activity during midlife helps arrest onset of Alzheimer’s
  2. Regular exercise helps reduce anxiety and depression in COPD patients
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