Physical Activity and Mood in Bipolar Disorder
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Systematic review Background: Bipolar disorder is associated with a higher rate of physical health problems and lower levels of physical activity than other clinical and general populations. Despite the potential benefits of physical activity to people with bipolar disorder, little research has been published around this and no recent review of this topic is available. Due to the clinical utility of summarising the available research evidence on this topic, this review aimed to answer the question “Is physical activity associated with manic and depressive symptoms in people with bipolar disorder?”. Methods: Seven electronic databases were searched using a range of search terms to reflect physical activity and bipolar disorder variables. Results: Ten studies were identified that reported associations between physical activity and mood symptoms of bipolar disorder. There were inconsistent findings on the relationship between physical activity and mood, in particular with relation to manic symptoms, with reports of physical activity being both helpful and harmful to manic symptoms. Findings were more consistent with regards to the association between physical activity and depressive symptoms, with most showing that higher levels of physical activity are associated with lower depressive symptoms. Limitations: Many studies had small sample sizes and very few manipulated physical activity and included a control group. Measures and diagnosis method were heterogeneous. Four studies lacked a direct measure of manic symptoms. Conclusions: Results showed inconsistent findings with regards to the relationship between physical activity and mood symptoms and further research is needed to inform any guidelines developed for this client group. Empirical paper: Background: Despite the published evidence for the benefits of physical activity on mood in the general population and in people with mental illness, there is a lack of research into the associations between physical activity and mood in people with bipolar disorder. The current study therefore aimed to investigate the relationship between symptoms of mania and depression and different intensities, regularity, and total duration of physical activity per day and across the week. Methods: People with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder (N = 29) completed daily diaries on physical activity and manic and depressive symptoms over 14 days. Analysis included multilevel modelling, t-tests and correlation analysis. Results: No association was found between manic symptoms and physical activity, either at the within- or the between-person level. An association was found at the within-person level between higher duration of physical activity and lower depression symptoms, however no association was found at the between-person level. Limitations: The small sample size was adequate only to detect large-sized effects for between-person hypotheses. Participants were highly active and may not be representative of the wider BD population. Physical activity levels were assessed via self-report. Conclusions: The relationship between physical activity and manic symptoms in BD remains inconclusive, but a significant within-person association indicates that physical activity may reduce depressive symptoms in the short term. Given previous research on physical activity and manic symptoms, people with BD and professionals working with them may need to remain cautious, modifying any PA engagement depending on mood state.
Doctor of Clinical Psychology