OBJECTIVES: Individuals with bipolar disorder (BD) generally engage in low levels of physical activity (PA), and yet few studies have investigated the relationship between PA and change in BD symptom severity. The aim of this subanalysis of an adjunctive nutraceutical randomized controlled trial for the treatment of bipolar depression was to explore the relationship between PA, the active adjunctive treatments (a nutraceutical "mitochondrial cocktail"), and clinical outcomes.
METHODS: Participants with bipolar depression were randomized to receive N-acetylcysteine alone, N-acetylcysteine with a combination of nutraceuticals (chosen for the potential to increase mitochondrial activity), or placebo for 16 weeks. Participants (n = 145) who completed the International Physical Activity Questionnaire-Short Form (IPAQ-SF; measured at Week 4) were included in this exploratory subanalysis. Assessments of BD symptoms, functioning, and quality of life were completed at monthly visits up until Week 20. Generalised Estimating Equations were used to explore whether IPAQ-SF scores were a moderator of treatment received on outcomes of the study.
RESULTS: Week-4 PA was not related to changes in Montgomery Åsberg Depression Rating Scale scores across the study until Week 20. However, participants who engaged in more PA and who received the combination treatment were more likely to have a reduction in scores on the Bipolar Depression Rating Scale (P = 0.03). However, this was not consistent in all domains explored using the IPAQ-SF. Participants who engaged in higher levels of PA also experienced greater improvement in social and occupational functioning and less impairment in functioning due to their psychopathology and improvement in quality of life at Week 20, irrespective of treatment.
CONCLUSIONS: This study provides novel evidence of the association between PA and reduction in BD symptoms in a nutraceutical clinical trial. However, further research assessing the potential synergistic effects of PA in BD is required.