AUG 13, 2016 6:08 PM PDT

Exercise Tackles Hard to Treat Symptoms of Schizophrenia

WRITTEN BY: Julianne Chiaet
source: unsplash.com

Elyn Saks is an associate dean and professor of law, psychology, and behavioral sciences at the USC Gould School of Law. She’s also “a woman with chronic schizophrenia” - according to a 2012 article she wrote for CNN. Saks is one of the most successful individuals who suffers from schizophrenia. In fact, it’s said that there aren’t many successful people with schizophrenia because the onset of the disorder takes place around a person’s late teens to early adulthood.

On that, Saks says, “Some people say I'm unique, that there aren't other people with schizophrenia like me. Well, there are people like me out there, but the stigma is so great that they don't come forward.”

Schizophrenia is characterized by psychosis, which is a loss of touch with reality. Losing touch with reality can come in the form of hallucinations and delusions. Hallucinations are perceptions of vivid stimuli that do not exist. For instance, hearing voices is the most common hallucination that comes with schizophrenia. Delusions are strong beliefs a person holds despite the significant evidence against it.

To combat such symptoms, medical professionals prescribe antipsychotics. Yet, there are other common symptoms of schizophrenia that cannot be treated with antipsychotics - such as disorganized thinking, poor memory, and fatigue.
 

"Cognitive deficits are one aspect of schizophrenia which is particularly problematic,” said Joseph Firth, sports medicine and psychiatry researcher at The University of Manchester. He and a group of researchers recently combed through data of 385 patients with schizophrenia from 10 independent clinical trials to find proven strategies to alleviate non-psychotic symptoms.

They found that 12 weeks of aerobic exercise training significantly improved brain function and alleviated non-psychotic symptoms in schizophrenic patients. The study was published on August 11, 2016, in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin.

These improved symptoms included working memory, attention span, and understanding social situations. The patients were concurrently treated with medications. 

"These findings present the first large-scale evidence supporting the use of physical exercise to treat the neurocognitive deficits associated with schizophrenia,” Firth said. "Using exercise from the earliest stages of the illness could reduce the likelihood of long-term disability, and facilitate full, functional recovery for patients."

Sources: Schizophrenia BulletinUniversity of Manchester press release via EurekAlert!Mayoclinic 
 
About the Author
  • Julianne (@JuliChiaet) covers health and medicine for LabRoots. Her work has been published in The Daily Beast, Scientific American, and MailOnline. While primarily a science journalist, she has also covered culture and Japanese organized crime. She is the New York Board Representative for the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA). • To read more of her writing, or to send her a message, go to Jchiaet.com
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