Affiliated member of the WPA – World Psychiatric Association

Abstract Falkai, Peter

Key Lecture
Effects of physical exercise on psychosis – a challenge for social functioning

Schizophrenia is a severe brain disorder characterised by positive, negative, affective and cognitive symptoms impairing the patients’ social functioning. This lecture focusses on the beneficial role of exercise in schizophrenia and its impact on social functioning.

The long-term outcome in people with schizophrenia depends not so much on their genetic, but much more on their environmental risk profile. Therefore improving their resilience with pharmacological and non-pharmacological options is the way to go. Focusing on non-pharmacological treatments, psychotherapy (psychoeducation and CBT) are incremental parts of a state of the art therapy.

Recently controlled studies could demonstrate that physical exercise involving large muscle groups (e.g. cycling, Yoga) performed three time a week for 45 minutes over a period of three months significantly improve negative symptoms, cognitive and social function. Therefore, adding physical exercise in a state of the art treatment will significantly improve the long-term outcome of schizophrenia. Attempts to use lesser vigorous forms of exercise have currently failed to show a significant effect. Therefore, dosage, length and methods have to be defined to make physical exercise a successful treatment tool.

Several meta-analyses demonstrate the beneficial effect of exercise on function, positive as well as negative symptoms and brain structure in multi-episode schizophrenia.


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