Sussex Psychosis Research interest Group (SPRiG)

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Exercise helps young people with psychosis

An exercise programme devised by researchers at the University of Manchester has dramatically reduced symptoms among young people with first-episode psychosis. For individuals with psychosis, some are prescribed antipsychotics to help with their symptoms. We know that taking antipsychotic medication can lead to weight gain and people taking these medications can find it more difficult to manage their weight. Losing weight can help reduce the risk of developing health problems such as diabetes and heart disease in the future. 

Researchers at the University of Manchester have designed a personalised exercise regime to combat this weight gain and improve mental health, and recently tested these regimes within a controlled study. Joseph Firth, the lead author on the study, said: "Establishing an exercise regime for people with psychosis is likely to be much more effective when they are younger, and in the earliest stages of treatment. Getting people into a routine early on also helps set habits for life, which can make a huge difference to their long-term physical and mental health."

The study recruited 31 young people (aged 18-35) from mental health services, and designed a personalised exercise regimes which were carried out under the supervision of a researcher for ten weeks. At the end of the 10-week period, the participants completed a variety of standardised mental and physical health tests and these demonstrates a 27% reduction in psychiatric symptoms. Brain functions improved and there was a slight reduction in their weight – going against expected weight gain from antipsychotic medication.

Exercise can provide a healthy and empowering add-on treatment for young people with psychosis. This could massively improve their social functioning and mental health, to prevent long-term disability.

The study, 'Exercise as an intervention for first-episode psychosis: a feasibility study', was published in the journal Early Intervention in Psychiatry

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By: Abigail Christine Wright
Last updated: Monday, 14 March 2016

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