Exercise therapy for schizophrenia

The objective of this review was to determine the mental health effects of exercise/physical activity programmes for people with schizophrenia or schizophrenia-like illnesses. Three randomised controlled trials met the inclusion criteria. Trials assessed the effects of exercise on physical and mental health. Overall numbers leaving the trials were similar. Two trials (Beebe 2005 and Marzaloni 2008) compared exercise to standard care and both found exercise to significantly improve negative symptoms of mental state. No absolute effects were found for positive symptoms of mental state. Physical health improved significantly in the exercise group compared to those in standard care, but no effect on peoples’ weight/BMI was apparent. Duraiswamy 2007 compared exercise with yoga and found that yoga had a better outcome for mental state. The same trial also found those in the yoga group had significantly better quality of life scores. Adverse effects (AIMS total scores) were, however, similar.

Results of this Cochrane review are similar to existing reviews that have examined the health benefits of exercise in this population (Faulkner 2005). Although studies included in this review are small and used various measures of physical and mental health, results indicated that regular exercise programmes are possible in this population, and that they can have healthful effects on both the physical and mental health and well-being of individuals with schizophrenia. Larger randomised studies are required before any definitive conclusions can be drawn.

Gorczynski P, Faulkner G. Exercise therapy for schizophrenia. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 5. Art. No.: CD004412