Following extensive research exercise has emerged as an effective treatment for major depressive disorder, and it is now a recognised therapy alongside other interventions. In contrast, there is a paucity of research examining the therapeutic effects of exercise for those with bipolar disorder. Given that dysfunctional reward processing is central to bipolar disorder, research suggests that exercise can perhaps be framed as a reward-related event that may have the potential to precipitate a manic episode. The behavioural activation system (BAS) is a neurobehavioural system that is associated with responding to reward and provides an appropriate framework to theoretically examine and better understand the effects of exercise treatment on bipolar disorder. This article discusses recent research findings and provides an overview of the extant literature related to the neurobiological underpinnings of BAS and exercise as they relate to bipolar disorder. This is important clinically because depending on mood state in bipolar disorder, we postulate that exercise could be either beneficial or deleterious with positive or negative effects on the illness. Clearly, this complicates the evaluation of exercise as a potential treatment in terms of identifying its optimal characteristics in this population.
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Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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