Exercise as Treatment for Teens with Bipolar Disorder: Q&A With our Patient Collaborator Tera

on October 20, 2020
Exercise as Treatment for Teens with Bipolar Disorder: Q&A With our Patient Collaborator Tera

In today’s blog, we hear from our patient collaborator, Tera, fifth-year university student, who has partnered with us on our study funded by Brain Canada together with the Sunnybrook Foundation, examining the feasibility of using exercise as treatment for youth with bipolar disorder (read more here). In the Q&A below, Tera shares with us why she got involved in this study, her perspective on this novel intervention, her reactions to our preliminary findings, and her hopes for how exercise can be integrated into future clinical care with teens with bipolar disorder. Her insight and perspective on this topic have been so helpful to our team and we are very grateful for her collaboration from the inception of this study until now.

1) What motivated you to spend your personal time collaborating with CYBD on this exercise study as a patient collaborator?

My self-care regimen is extremely important to my well-being, and I know firsthand how much it can impact my mental health when I am unable to exercise. It can be very difficult to motivate yourself to engage in physical activity, especially if you are in the midst of a depressive episode. However, the positive impacts are astronomical for both short-term and long-term health. I wanted to collaborate on this study to find reasonable and effective ways to help other patients fit exercise into their routines.

“My self-care regimen is extremely important to my well-being, and I know firsthand how much it can impact my mental health when I am unable to exercise.”

2) When you were first told about this exercise study and its goal to increase aerobic fitness in teens with bipolar disorder, what were your initial thoughts? How did you think teens would react to this type of intervention?

I was very excited about the prospects of finding a way to “prescribe” exercise as medicine, as I know the results from this research have the potential to be very far-reaching. However, I did immediately worry that motivation could be an issue, especially in this subset of patients who may be experiencing mood episodes. Nonetheless, I was excited by this challenge as a science student because I know that seeing the results of research can impact someone’s expectations, attitudes and even behaviors.

A teenage East Asian boy is playing volleyball at an outdoor court. The sky is blue and clear and there are trees nearby. He is shown in profile reaching upwards towards the ball.

3) What are your reactions to the preliminary findings of what we’ve learned from patients who participated?

I am very encouraged by the results we have so far! I’m thrilled that participants enjoy the flexibility of the program and have explored the different options offered. Every case of bipolar disorder is different and every self-care regimen is unique, so it makes sense that there is no one size fits all model for achieving optimal levels of cardiovascular exercise.

“I truly believe that exercise is the #1 tool I have for regulating my mental health and well-being.”

4) Based on what we’ve learned so far, what are your hopes for next steps/what outcomes would you like to see as a result of this study?

I am very happy that patients found it helpful to understand the benefits of exercise and why it’s specifically important for their risk factors. This aligns with my hope that seeing the results from this study can encourage more patients to incorporate exercise into their strategies for managing their bipolar disorder and long-term wellness.

5) What are your exercise habits like? How does exercise play a role with your mental health and vice versa?

I try to exercise 2-3 times a week, often with HIIT classes or some mix of weight training and cardio. I have struggled to keep my workouts as a top priority this summer with all my changes in routine due to COVID and studying for my MCAT, but I still try to go for walks and get fresh air. I truly believe that exercise is the #1 tool I have for regulating my mental health and well-being. If I am struggling, the first thing I do is consult my notes to determine the last time I exercised. It can be exhausting when my mind is consistently being taken over by mood and anxiety symptoms and my strategies aren’t working. In this case, there is truly nothing more revitalizing than the rush I get from sweating and allowing exercise to clear my head.

–Tera, patient partner

Brain Canada Foundation
Government of Canada
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

 

Learn More at our #TalkBD Webinar!

To learn more about exercise as an intervention for youth with bipolar disorder, you can sign up for our #TalkBD webinar on November 9th at 12pm Pacific! At #TalkBD 10 – Exercise for Youth with BD, Dr. Ben Goldstein, Tera, and Dr. Erin Michalak will discuss findings on exercise as treatment and answer questions submitted by viewers.


Learn More About #TalkBD


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