Changing Habits General

Exercise The Silent Treatment for Bipolar – What You Don’t Know…

Many of you will find the title confusing, and are probably asking: How can exercise be silent? Let me first start by saying with confidence that “exercise” has been a huge factor in helping me control my mood swings. For years I didn’t understand the benefits of a daily exercise routine, but I know it’s responsible for triggering a chain of effects that transformed my life. I guess this can all go back to the concept of a “keystone habit” where one change will trigger others. With that said,

Let’s get back to the title,

I say exercise is silent because it’s a decision that “YOU” make, and no one else. It’s an internal decision when you’ve had enough, and want to take positive steps to transform your life. I remember for year’s people would try to force me to start exercising, however I didn’t want to listen to anyone except my inner self. It was when I finally had enough, and wanted to transform my life by doing things differently that I incorporated exercise into my daily life style. I’m going to re-iterate my point once more: EXERCISE CHANGED MY LIFE!

Over the last several months I have been skimming through communities trying to get feedback on why people don’t start exercising sooner. I focused specifically on those living with bipolar disorder, and concluded the following:

First, they simply don’t know the benefits of exercise, and what it can do for people living with bipolar. For example, regular exercise can boost self-esteem, help with your sleeping pattern, and boost endorphins within your body. Endorphins are your body’s natural pain killers, and they have been proven to elevate your mood. Great for bipolar especially when we deal with constant mood swings…right? Here’s a quick passage from the American Psychological Association:

“According to the American Psychological Association, studies indicate that exercise is a powerful weapon to fight depression. Other research indicates it is useful in the treatment of anxiety, self-esteem issues, and addictions, all of which can plague bipolar patients. It appears aerobic exercise, like walking and running, works better on bipolar depression than weight training, says Sylvia.”

As mentioned, I always try to provide insight from my own personal experience, and be completely transparent about the changes exercise brought in my life. I first decided to exercise because my weight swelled to 205lbs which was a side-effect of the medication I was – Seroquel. I suffered serious side-effects, and didn’t know how serious until I visited my psychiatrist. Many of you are probably aware of heart palpitations – feeling your heart is beating way too fast, hard, or even skipping a beat. When it skips a beat, you essentially have a lack of oxygen supplied throughout your body. This can lead to passing out, or even cardiac arrest.

I believe things happen for a reason, and after this episode I decided to take a more proactive role in changing my life. My happiness wasn’t going to be left in the hands of a psychiatrist, and prescription medication.

My regular exercise routine focused on cardio because I wanted to drop back down to my ideal weight of 155lbs. From experience, I feel my strongest, and healthiest at this weight. Over a period of 4-6 months I shed enormous weight, and this completely changed my outlook on life.

It’s true when your overweight you tend to feel more depressed. I finally figured out it was mostly psychological for me because I’d always worry about having a heart attack, not looking my best, and at the same time my sleeping pattern would be off. We all know when living with bipolar it’s important you have a set sleeping pattern.

When researching, I discovered quality sleep helps restore chemicals in the brain, and one in particular has been linked to bipolar – Serotonin. It’s the chemical that affects mood, emotion, sleep and appetite. Poor sleep causes a chemical imbalance which can lead to a manic episode.

Through regular exercise I was achieving something every day. For example, after exercising I felt as though I’ve accomplished something good, especially something which will improve my overall health. This added confidence, and allowed me to control negative thought patterns. Accomplishments would over-power low self-worth or feelings based on not doing anything productive with my life.

There is a huge link between exercise, and its ability to decrease stress levels. Here’s something from the Organization Bipolar Affective Disorder:

“The biochemical imbalance makes individuals more vulnerable to emotional and physical stressors: such as lack of sleep, excessive stimulation, marital tensions and conflicts; or upsetting and traumatic life experiences. During times of stress, the brain chemistry lacks the mechanisms to function properly, triggering the onset or recurrence of an unwanted episode. Despite this reaction, the stress in and of itself is not the cause of the disorder.” –

This means if you are living with bipolar, the chemical imbalance in our minds make us more vulnerable to stress. Furthermore, this vulnerability can cause depression, and even trigger an episode. However, exercise can definitely be a counter-measure because it helps relieve stress, and curbs cycling between moods. Next,

I’ve learned to control my trigger points over the years using them to educate myself. For example, many of my triggers were caused because of unrealistic thought patterns where I would distort the situation making it work against me. Bipolar can have that effect on chemical levels in the brain. However, if you can learn to manage these chemical levels by removing triggers like stress, negative thoughts, and anxiety, then you should be able to elevate your mood considerably. You’re probably wondering how this entire paragraph is connected to exercise and stress…right? It’s that…

With exercise you can reduce stress. With a reduction in stress you’ll level out chemicals associated with mood swings like – Serotonin. This will help curb cycling between moods. To be completely honest, I’ve noticed a huge elevation in mood ever since I incorporated regular exercise into my daily lifestyle. Here’s another quick passage to help re-iterate my point:

Exercise helps combat stress by reducing feelings of anxiety, depression and hopelessness. Long, continuous aerobic exercise releases endorphins from the brain, which gives a feeling of euphoria and well-being. Endorphins are a natural antidote to depression, as they elevate mood.” –

Now that we understand the connection between stress and exercise, it’s time we start to incorporate some sort of regular exercise into our lifestyle. Here’s are some resources to help you get started. I’ve compiled a list of free cardio routines perfect for beginners, and experts.


Helping others beat bipolar disorder. After living with Bipolar for over 16 years, I have self-educated myself to come up with creative ways to live a normal productive life. It`s time to give back by helping others transform!