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J Affect Disord. 2007 Aug;101(1-3):259-62. Epub 2006 Dec 19.

The effects of physical activity in the acute treatment of bipolar disorder: a pilot study.

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  • 1Department of Clinical and Biomedical Sciences, Barwon Health, University of Melbourne, Geelong, Victoria, Australia.



Physical activity has demonstrated efficacy in depression and anxiety, but its potential in the management of bipolar disorder is yet unexplored. This study is a pilot investigation into the effectiveness of an adjunctive walking program in the acute treatment of bipolar disorder.


This is a retrospective cohort study of all patients admitted over a 24-month period to a private psychiatric unit with a primary diagnosis of bipolar disorder (ICD-10). All patients were invited to participate voluntarily in a walking group during their admissions. Those who reliably attended the walking group (participants) were compared against those who did not attend (non-participants), using the clinician-rated Clinical Global Impression Severity (CGI-S) and Improvement (CGI-I) scales and the self-reported 21-item Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS) as primary outcome measures.


There were 24 admissions for participants and 74 admissions for non-participants. The two groups did not differ significantly in patient demographics or admission CGI and DASS measures, except for a lower DASS Stress subscore for participants (p=0.049). At discharge, the inter-group differences in CGI measures remained non-significant, but participants had significantly lower scores than non-participants for DASS (p=0.005) and all its subscales (Depression p=0.048, Anxiety p=0.002, Stress p=0.01).


Methodological limitations include a retrospective design, small sample size, lack of randomisation or control, and indirect measure of manic symptoms.


The results of this trial provide preliminary support for a therapeutic role of physical activity in bipolar disorder, and warrant further investigation with randomised controlled trials.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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