Exercise Increases Mental Function in People with Schizophrenia

A new study has found that for people who suffer from schizophrenia, aerobic exercise may help increase their mental function.


The study involved 33 schizophrenia patients, all of which were randomly selected to have one of two treatments. The control group received the standard psychiatric treatment. The other group participated in a 12-week long aerobic exercise program which involved interactive video games and exercise equipment.

The study’s lead author, David Kimhy, PhD said, “Our results indicate that poor aerobic fitness represents a modifiable risk factor for cognitive dysfunction in people with schizophrenia for which aerobic exercise training offers a safe, non-stigmatizing and side-effect-free intervention." Kimhy is an assistant professor in psychiatry and director of the Experimental Psychopathology Lab at the New York State Psychiatric Institute in New York.

Among the group of people that exercised in the study, aerobic fitness improved mental function by 15 percent. Compared to the control group, mental function actually declined by 2 percent.

According to the researchers, there is a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor which may be a possible explanation for why mental function in people with schizophrenia increases with exercise. The researchers say that with more exercise, this protein increases.

Could aerobic exercise eventually be implemented into future schizophrenia therapy programs? Kimhy says it’s a possibility: “If replicated, our findings may lead to the integration of aerobic exercise into standard psychiatric treatment for people with schizophrenia and other severe mental health problems.”