Background: Physical exercise is an evidence-based treatment to reduce symptoms and negative affect in several psychiatric disorders, including depressive, anxiety, and psychotic disorders. However, the effect of physical exercise on negative affect in patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD) has not yet been investigated. In this pilot study, we tested the safety, acceptability, and potential acute effects on negative affect of a single session of aerobic physical exercise in adults with BPD.
Method: After completing a negative mood induction procedure, 28 adults with BPD were randomly assigned to a 20-minute single session of stationary bicycle or a control condition (emotionally neutral video).
Results: No adverse effects attributed to the physical exercise were reported and it was considered acceptable to patients. Following the negative mood induction, both conditions decreased the level of negative affect with a medium effect size but there was no significant difference between them.
Conclusion: The results suggest that a single 20-minute session of physical exercise does not produce a reduction of negative affect in BPD. Future research should consider the duration and intensities of physical exercise with the greatest potential to reduce negative affect both acutely and in a more prolonged manner in this patient group.