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Exercise could boost mood, improve bipolar, study says

A bump in exercise jump could lead to a jump in mood, one study says.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School and other scientists found that physical activity boosted the spirits of the people it studied -- especially the participants with bipolar disorder.

"Systems regulating sleep, motor activity and mood have typically been studied independently. This work demonstrates the importance of examining these systems jointly rather than in isolation," Vadim Zipunnikov, an assistant professor in the Bloomberg School's Department of Biostatistics and study lead author, said in a news release.

Their work followed 242 people between ages 15 and 84 who wore wrist trackers that plotted their real-time physical movement. Then, four times per day for two weeks, those results went into electronic diaries that used a seven-point analog scale that measured moods from "very happy" to "very sad" and energy levels from "very tired" to "very energetic."

The researchers found that the more active people had the better moods and perceived energy levels, particularly at the next time-point during the day. Each person plotted their own daily time-points based on their own breakfast, lunch, dinner and bed times.

The energy levels along those points corresponded directly with activity levels at the next point.

The researchers also wanted to track sleep, which has a strong psychological influence on people with bipolar disorder. More than 20 percent of the people in the study struggled with bipolar disorder.

Since bipolar affects nearly 3 percent of Americans, the researchers want to use their work toward interventions that could cancel out depressive episodes in people with bipolar.

"This study exemplifies the potential for combining the use of physical-activity trackers and electronic diaries to better understand the complex dynamic interrelationships among multiple systems in a real-time and real-life context," says Dr. Zipunnikov.

The team's findings were published in JAMA Psychiatry.

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