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Exercise as an intervention for first-episode psychosis: a feasibility study

Firth, J and Carney, R and Elliott, R and French, P and Parker, S and McIntyre, R and McPhee, JS and Yung, AR (2018) Exercise as an intervention for first-episode psychosis: a feasibility study. Early Intervention in Psychiatry, 12 (3). pp. 307-315. ISSN 1751-7885

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Abstract

Exercise can improve psychiatric symptoms, neurocognitive functioning and physical health in schizophrenia. However, the effects in early psychosis have not been explored. This study aimed to assess the feasibility of an exercise intervention for early psychosis and to determine if it was associated with changes in physical and mental health. Methods: Thirty-one patients with first-episode psychosis (FEP) were recruited from early intervention services to a 10-week exercise intervention. The intervention group received individualized training programmes, aiming to achieve ≥90 min of moderate-to-vigorous activity each week, using exercise programmes tailored to individual preferences and needs. A comparison FEP sample from the same services (n = 7) received treatment as usual. Results: Rates of consent and retention in the exercise group were 94% and 81%, respectively. Participants achieved an average of 107 min of moderate-to-vigorous exercise per week. Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale total scores reduced by 13.3 points after 10 weeks of exercise, which was significantly greater than the treatment as usual comparison group (P = 0.010). The greatest differences were observed in negative symptoms, which reduced by 33% in the intervention group (P = 0.013). Significant improvements were also observed in psychosocial functioning and verbal short-term memory. Increases in cardiovascular fitness and processing speed were positively associated with the amounts of exercise achieved by participants. Conclusion: Individualized exercise training could provide a feasible treatment option for improving symptomatic, neurocognitive and metabolic outcomes in FEP.

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