The Importance of Exercising Regularly for People With Bipolar Disorder
Tips for getting started and how it benefits me.
Raise your hand if you like exercising.
Don’t feel bad if your first response was negative. We all know the value of exercising, but finding the time and energy to do it often feels impossible. Many days, it’s the most-hated item on my to-do list, but I rarely regret finishing an exercise routine.
When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, my doctor gave me a lot of advice. Among the many things she told me, one of the most important was to exercise regularly.
At first, I didn’t really understand why it mattered. I received my bipolar disorder diagnosis while in a psychiatric hospital. I weighed 116 pounds (52.6 kilograms), so exercise felt unnecessary.
Isn’t exercise just for weight loss? I thought. I was 23 and knew nothing about life. Or mental illness.
In the years since, the reality of just how vital physical activity is for managing my bipolar disorder has become clear. Exercise helps preserve my moods and releases bottled-up stress.
Here are some tips on how to get the most benefit from exercising regularly.Start Today!
The Dos and Don’ts of Exercising With Bipolar Disorder
First, it’s important to start slowly.
If you try to do too much too soon, you may over-exert yourself and trigger bipolar symptoms. As you get older, over-exertion also means muscle aches and cramps. Nothing will turn you off about exercise faster than leg cramps keeping you awake at night.
Your initial goal should be to find an exercise routine that is sustainable and doesn’t require too much of a time commitment. For example, going for a walk around the block or taking a beginner’s yoga class are both great ways to get started.
Second, be sure to listen to your body.
Your body is sending you messages all the time, and this is never more true than when you start an exercise routine. Be aware of your limitations and don’t drive yourself too hard. If you become overwhelmed or think you’re pushing yourself too far, take a rest or reduce the intensity and/or length of your workout.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
If you’re not sure how to begin, talk to your doctor or a physical therapist. They can help you develop a safe and effective exercise routine that meets your needs.
Types of Low-Impact Exercise Good for Individuals With Bipolar Disorder
There are many different types of exercise that can be beneficial for those with bipolar disorder. Here are a few examples:
Yoga and Pilates: Yoga and Pilates can help promote relaxation and mindfulness, which can be helpful in managing bipolar symptoms.
Walking: Walking is a great way to get some moderate exercise without over-exerting yourself. When you walk outside, you also get the added benefit of Vitamin D from the sun.
Swimming: Swimming is a low-impact activity that can provide many of the same benefits as other types of exercise.
Remember, the key is to start slowly and pay attention to what your body is telling you. Failure to listen could trigger manic episodes.
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Warnings About Over-Exertion and Manic Episodes
Exercise comes with an additional limitation when you have bipolar disorder.
Pushing yourself too hard or exercising too long can trigger manic episodes. While mania often starts with a boost of energy that feels good, it always comes at a heavy price. The harder you push yourself, the higher that price will be.
If you start to feel overwhelmed or like you’re over-exerting yourself, take a break or cut back on the intensity of your workout. While exercise is helpful, you need to focus on your mental health first.
See What Exercise Can Do For You
I understand if you’re skeptical.
It took a long time for me to become a believer about the value of exercise for managing bipolar disorder. However, now when I have to limit my physical activity due to increased work or family demands, I feel the negative impact on how I feel inside.
Exercise is an essential tool for managing your mental health, so it’s worth the effort to carve out time in your schedule to do it. When I stick to a routine of exercising at least three times a week, it helps keep my moods stable and prevents me from going too high or low.
Remember to start slowly, build up gradually, and always listen to your body to avoid any negative consequences. With a little effort, you can find the perfect exercise routine for you and your mental health.
I know it can be tough to get started. There will be times it feels too hard, so it’s okay to take breaks. Just don’t stay away for too long.
My favorite exercises are walking outdoors and working in my yard. When you find an exercise you enjoy, it makes you more likely to do it.
Exercise has helped me immensely in controlling my bipolar disorder, and I know you’ll find similar benefits. So if you’re looking for ways to improve your mood and stability, I urge you to give exercise a try. The benefits may surprise you.
What exercise do you like to do? Please share in the comments.
Until next time, keep fighting.
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