Aerobic Exercise May Enhance Cognition in Schizophrenia

Aerobic exercise appeared to enhance the cognitive functioning of people with schizophrenia in a small 12-week study.

An abstract on the study was presented at the 6th Biennial Schizophrenia International Research Society Conference in Florence, Italy.

A group of 33 people with schizophrenia were randomized to receive their usual treatment program or take part in an aerobic exercise program for 60 minutes 3 times per week for 12 weeks. The exercise program utilized traditional aerobic exercise equipment as well as active-play video games.

Twenty-six people completed the study. After the intervention, the participants in the exercise program had improved their cognitive functioning by 15.1%, compared with a 2% decline in the treatment-as-usual group, as measured by the Matrics Consensus Cognitive Battery (MCCB).

In addition, changes in aerobic fitness were correlated with improvements in work-related daily-functioning skills, as reported by informants, and fidelity with target training intensity was correlated with cognitive improvement.

“Overall, low aerobic fitness represents a modifiable risk-factor for cognitive dysfunction in schizophrenia for which [aerobic exercise] training [offers] a relatively safe, non-stigmatizing, and side-effect-free intervention,” the research team wrote in the abstract.

People with schizophrenia exhibit significant cognitive deficits, and available treatments offer only minimal benefit, the researchers explained. “These deficits have been identified as major determinants of poor functioning and disability, representing a serious public health concern and an important target for interventions,” they wrote.

—Terri Airov


Kimhy D, Vakhrusheva J, Bartels M, Ballon J, Castrén E, Sloan R. The impact of aerobic exercise on cognitive functioning and biomarkers of cognitive change in individuals with schizophrenia. Abstract presented at the 6th Biennial Schizophrenia International Research Society Conference; April 4-8, 2018; Florence, Italy. Abstract 11.2.