Exercise shown to combat psychotic episodes

Exercise has long been heralded as a way to combat depression, and now, a new study has found that exercise also significantly reduces the number of delusions and hallucinations in young people with psychosis.

The study, which was devised by researchers at the University of Manchester, found that partaking in an exercise programme reduced symptoms of first-episode psychosis by 27%. On top of that participants saw an improvement in brain function and a slight reduction in weight. Traditional treatment is usually a combination of antipsychotic medication and therapy but the drugs used can lead to rapid weight gain, which exercise combats.

Psychosis can be triggered by schizophrenia, bi-polar and severe depression, causing people to see and experience the world in a completely different way to those without mental health problems. With one new case diagnosed for every 2,000 people here in England every year, exercise as a form of successful treatment is a huge step forward and will benefit many.

It is estimated that around three in 100 people will have at least a singular episode of psychosis throughout their life.

31 people between the ages of 18 and 35 were recruited for the study and received personalised exercise regimes that were carried out at local leisure centres for a total of 10 weeks. All the participants took part in more than 107 minutes of vigorous exercise for each of the ten weeks and were supervised by a researcher.

Of course, this was only a pilot study and more rigorous and extensive testing must be carried out but the effects on the psychiatric symptoms were dramatic and encouraging. It could mean it revolutionises the way mental health problems are treated. Exercise could be a healthy and motivating supplementary treatment for young people with psychosis.

Previously, exercise had been studied to improve the symptoms of long-term schizophrenia but this is the first time the effects have been studied on young people with early psychosis.

Who knows? Personal training courses might be available in the future dedicated to helping those struggling with mental health problems such as psychosis.