Last updated on January 2020

Toward Exercise as Medicine for Adolescents With Bipolar Disorder


Brief description of study

This study seeks to bridge the knowledge-to-action gap regarding "exercise as medicine" for adolescents with bipolar disorder (BD). Numerous review articles attest to widespread recognition that aerobic exercise (AE) could be an important part of the treatment armamentarium to reduce the symptom burden, neurocognitive dysfunction, and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk, improve quality of life (QOL), and even engage core biological treatment targets in BD. It appears self-evident that treatment for adolescents with BD, who experience high symptom burden, neurocognitive deficits, and increased CVD risk, should target their aerobic fitness (AF), yet there is not a single study in the world literature on this topic. Remarkably, there have been no intervention studies that specifically focus on aerobic exercise or that directly evaluate changes in AF in any BD age group. Overall physical activity is important, but focusing on AF offers unique potential benefits in terms of simultaneously ameliorating and enhancing mood, neurocognition, and cardiovascular health. Importantly, a recent American Heart Association (AHA) Scientific Statement confirms that it is the most aerobically unfit for whom even modest improvements in AF offer the greatest relative benefits. Nonetheless, important questions arise as to whether and how AF in this population can be improved. There is a clear and unmet need for effective behavior change counseling (BCC) interventions targeting AF that are tailored to the unique needs of adolescents with BD.

Detailed Study Description

The overarching goal of this project is to advance the field in terms of BCC approaches to improving AF among adolescents with BD, a group for whom improvements in AF offer multiple parallel benefits. This project will serve as a preliminary feasibility study, a necessary step in the path toward a well-powered, randomized controlled trial (RCT). If exercise is to achieve the same status as other evidence-based treatments for adolescents with BD, it will be necessary to evaluate exercise with the same level of rigor as other interventions. A crucial first step toward the ultimate goal of an adequately powered RCT is to demonstrate that adolescents with BD will enroll in, and actively participate in, an intervention study that accurately reflects what would be required of participants in such a study.

Objective 1: Evaluate the feasibility of developing a 24-week BCC intervention, customized and personalized for adolescents with BD, focusing on increasing AF.

Objective 2: Evaluate the feasibility of implementing the 24-week BCC intervention.

Objective 3: Evaluate the feasibility of measuring the effects of the intervention.

Exploratory: Examine the impact on AF of a 24-week BCC intervention, customized and personalized for adolescents with BD. Related hypothesis-generating analyses will examine the impact of specific variables (e.g., mood, medications, exercise-induced feelings, specific BCC modules, changes in motivation and self-efficacy) on AF changes.

Clinical Study Identifier: NCT03562520

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