Physical activity can help people experiencing first-episode psychosis: Study

Physical activity can help people experiencing first-episode psychosis: Study

Millions of Americans are debilitated by severe mental illnesses every year. Mental health problem in some cases are so severe that people experiencing them tend to lose touch with the reality. Their thoughts and emotions are tied to delusions, along with symptoms of absolute loss of motivation and social withdrawal. Many people with these signs and symptoms are known to suffer from a mental health condition known as psychosis. Though the disease affects three out of 100 people and is associated with young adults, it can strike a person of any age.

The treatment of psychosis involves an amalgamation of medications, psychotherapy and family and social support, but a study by the University of Manchester, published in the journal Early Intervention in Psychiatry in March 2016, highlighted the importance of exercise in decreasing the signs of first-episode psychosis (FEP) in adolescents.

Exercise can be an empowering add-on treatment for young people

In the study titled, “Exercise as an intervention for first-episode psychosis: a feasibility study,” the researchers intended to explore the impact of exercise on patients suffering from early stages of psychosis. The researchers examined 31 people aged 18-35, who had been referred to local mental health centers for the treatment of psychosis.

For the purpose of the study, personalized exercise routines were planned and designed for each participant, who were observed for 10 weeks at local recreation centers. Lead author of the study and doctoral student, Joseph Firth, said, “Establishing an exercise regimen 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.”

FEP patients, most of the times, exceeded the amount of the exercise set as a target for them, thus, achieving 107 minutes of vigorous exercise every week for 10 weeks. The participants were also subjected to a variety of mental and physical health tests. These results were then compared with the patients who were receiving treatment from some mental health service program that had no provision for exercise.

It was observed that the FEP patients who undertook exercise witnessed a 27 percent reduction in their psychosis symptoms, which was significantly higher than the control group. The researchers also observed a considerable improvement in the brain functioning along with weight loss, as opposed to weight gain from the normal course of treatment. “By reaching people early on, 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, hopefully preventing long-term disability from ever arising,” said Firth.

The study is the first of its kind to understand the effects of exercise on symptoms of psychosis, though previous researches had pointed at the importance of exercise as an effective treatment for chronic schizophrenia. It also paves the way for further researches into the treatment of psychosis using alternative therapeutic interventions, as antipsychotics have several side-effects.

Firth said, “This was only a pilot study, but the improvements, particularly in psychiatric symptoms, were dramatic. Personalized exercise at local leisure centers seems to be a cost-effective and successful way to help these young people recover.”

Road to recovery

It is imperative to understand the signs of psychosis at an early stage before they aggravate into worse symptoms of hallucinations, depressive disorders, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. Treatment of psychosis involves a balanced combination of behavioral therapies and antipsychotic medications, along with a lot of family support.

If you or your loved one is suffering from some mental condition, don’t hesitate in contacting the Florida Mental Health Helpline to know about the best mental disorder treatment in Florida. Our representatives can suggest the best treatment option using curative interventions. Chat online or call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-846-5588 for more information and assistance on rehab facilities in Florida.