Exercise, if you want to deal with schizophrenia once and for all

  • AFP, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 15, 2016 10:23 IST
Schizophrenia is usually treated with medication, but a new study has found that adding in an exercise program such as running could have an even greater effect on helping to improve certain symptoms of the condition. (Shutterstock)

Including aerobic exercise in your daily routine can effectively treat some of the symptoms associated with schizophrenia, claims a new study.

The study, from researchers at the University of Manchester, provides the first large-scale evidence to suggest that combining medication with an exercise program could be an effective treatment for improving the cognitive deficits in sufferers of the long-term mental health condition.

Read: How India deals with mental disorders

While sufferers of schizophrenia may experience hallucinations and delusions as part of the condition, according to one of the study’s authors, Joe Firth, cognitive deficits such as poor memory and loss of concentration, “are particularly problematic”.

“They hinder recovery and impact negatively upon people’s ability to function in work and social situations. Furthermore, current medications for schizophrenia do not treat the cognitive deficits of the disorder,” he added.

To look at the effect of medication and exercise combined, the team took data from 10 independent clinical trials that included a total of 385 patients with schizophrenia.

Common symptoms of schizophrenia. (Shutterstock)

The findings showed that medication combined with 12 weeks of aerobic exercise training, using treadmills or exercise bikes, for example, can significantly improve patients’ overall brain functioning, over medication alone.

In addition, the team also found that some areas of cognitive functioning improved more than others, including the patients’ ability to understand social situations, their attention spans, and their “working memory” — how much information they can hold in their mind at one time, previously known as short-term memory.

Read: Exercise may help those with depression and anxiety

The results also suggested that the more exercise that the patients did, and the more fitness improved, the greater the effect on brain functioning.

Firth now believes that using exercise, particularly in the early stages of the condition, could be an effective way to improve these symptoms and could even help lead to a full recovery for patients.

The findings can be found online published in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin.

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