Schizophrenia is one of the most severe brain disorders known to man. There are many cases of people being unable to function in society due to their chronic and disabling schizophrenia. It is one of the worst disorders to come down with, and sadly, more than 1.1% of the American population is affected by it every year. That may not sound like a lot, but that’s actually over 33 million people!
Science has long been researching a cure for the disorder, but breakthroughs have been fairly few and far between. A few medications exist that can help to reduce the symptoms of schizophrenia, but the medications don’t deal with the problem itself.
But could exercise be the new cure for the chronic brain disorder?
How Exercise Could Cure Schizophrenia
According to a team of researchers at Columbia University, aerobic exercise may help deal with schizophrenia.
The researchers gathered 33 patients, all of whom either received the standard psychiatric treatment recommended for schizophrenics or underwent a 12-week aerobic exercise training program. The exercise program involved exercise video games along with the regular sorts of exercise done at the gym (treadmill, elliptical, cycle, etc.). The participants in the training program also received the standard psychiatric treatment.
The fitness results were to be expected: those who participated in the fitness program improved their overall aerobic conditioning by roughly 18%. Those who did not participate actually saw a decline in their fitness, though it was fairly minimal (0.5%).
But the cognitive function results were the most impressive. The participants in the aerobic exercise program saw a 15.1% improvement in their brain function, while those who did not participate in the training but only received psychiatric treatment saw a 2% reduction in cognitive function. (This 2% reduction is the standard decline caused by the disorder.)
What does all of this mean? According to David Kimhy, PhD., lead author of the paper, director of the Experimental Psychopathology Lab, and assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at the New York State Psychiatric Institute,
“Our results indicate that poor aerobic fitness represents a modifiable risk factor for cognitive dysfunction in people with schizophrenia, for which aerobic exercise training offers a safe, non-stigmatizing, and side-effect-free intervention.”
The study helped the team to identify a specific protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) present in the brain. This protein increases as you exercise, and with its increase, cognitive function improves as well.
According to Dr. Kimhy,
“If replicated, our findings may lead to the integration of aerobic exercise into standard psychiatric treatment for people with schizophrenia and other severe mental health problems.”
As this study proves, exercise is one of the BEST ways to fight just about every sort of health problem you face. Not only will exercise help you to manage your weight–thereby reducing your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other cardiovascular problems–but it will also improve both your overall body function and the function of your brain significantly!
The beauty of the exercise program used in this study is that it was simple and accessible. The researchers used only equipment available in just about every gym around the country, so you don’t have to use fancy machines to improve your brain function. You can simply hop on that treadmill, ride your bicycle, or use the elliptical machine.
Just a small amount of aerobic exercise can have a noticeable improvement on your brain function, and it can help to prevent a wide range of disorders and illnesses–possibly even schizophrenia.