Exercise is good for the brain, whether normal or abnormal. It has been found that not only does exercise increase blood flow to the brain, exercise also has other indirect effects on the brain.
Like so many,the effects of exercise led to a serendipitous discovery.
For most of his life, Marco Tapia viewed exercise as a way to stay in shape. He played soccer growing up. It was recreation, and an opportunity to hang out with his friends.
But since Tapia was diagnosed with schizophrenia four years ago, physical activity has taken on a new, more urgent value for the 28-year-old.
A new study by researchers at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior shows that regular aerobic exercise has significant benefits for young schizophrenia patients, such as Tapia.
The research reveals that an intensive routine of both physical and mental exercises, especially in the early stages of schizophrenia, can help repair the deficits in memory, problem solving and social intelligence that are associated with the illness.
Tapia was part of a 10-week pilot study at the Aftercare Research Program, a clinic at the Semel Institute. He and his family found out about the free program after an episode of schizophrenia landed him in the hospital in 2012.
Combined with behavioral therapy, and medications this combined treatment may offer a meaningful quality of life for those diagnosed with schizophrenia.
“What’s striking to us is the power of combination,” Nuechterlein said. “Both [brain games and exercise] done separately help somewhat, but when done together, the boost in cognitive function is greater.”
In the pilot study, one group participated in computerized cognitive training, while a second group did the same computer training in addition to 150 minutes of exercise videos a week.
The patients completed a variety of tests, including a dot-to-dot drawing. The completion time for the group that exercised dropped from 37 to 25 seconds — not too far from the average completion time of 22 seconds among people without schizophrenia.
In a second and ongoing study, 32 people who experienced their first schizophrenic episode within the last two years were put through similar computer-based training. Half of them also engaged in aerobic exercises led by physical trainers.
Workouts were a combination of jumping jacks, lunges, running, and other types of cardiovascular exercise. The exercises don’t require special equipment and can be adapted almost anywhere, Nuechterlein said. The participants’ heart rate and calories were monitored
Today neuroscience, genomic, advanced brain imaging will all contribute to understanding this life-threatening disease.
Running To Beat Schizophrenia | California Healthline