Schizophrenia and Interval Training

  • I attended the poster session at the American Psychiatric Association Convention devoted to fitness and want to detail this as May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month.


    May is the perfect month to celebrate activity because it's not too cold and not too hot: the perfect weather to take long walks outdoors, run in a park or ride a bike.


    The literature on supervised exercise intervention and its effectiveness on individuals with schizophrenia is scant.  Only two studies that use interval training corroborate a reduced waist circumference and better cardiovascular function.


    The limits of follow-up are that patients lack motivation to start and continue (because of negative symptoms) and they tend to smoke cigarettes to a greater negative effect on ability to train.

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    Interval training is the performing of a mix of a set of functions as opposed to doing one movement over and over.  I did interval training on the treadmill by walking for two minutes then running for 45 seconds and then walking and running again.


    Currently, I'm in my fourth year of training where I do 3 sets of 3 functions in each set with  a 60 second rest between the sets.  I do strength training: the single greatest way to lose weight and keep weight off for the long-term.


    With the rise of metabolic syndrome in individuals taking antipsychotics (second generation drugs or SGAs), interval training could be the adjunct prescription for physical health.


    While I'm aware most people with schizophrenia smoke cigarettes and a significant number lack motivation: we need to move beyond this portrait to create techniques to inspire them to change their habits.  Is biology destiny?  It doesn't have to be.


    A book I recommend is Changeology by John Norcross, a method of changing behavior that has been scientifically-proven to be effective.  Tailoring this to those of us with negative symptoms might be the solution to effecting positive, lasting changes: in fitness levels and in other areas of life too.


    It's a challenge: the number-one barrier to success: the behaviors that hold patients back from achieving their full potential.  Schizophrenia is a cruel illness, yet it doesn't have to stop a person from doing everything in life that he wants to.


    Developing "work-arounds" could be the key.  Interval training can be done 2x/week for a half hour each session to start out with.  Physical fitness unlocks a better life outcome because getting fit gives a person the confidence to tackle other risks.


    Strength training (doing movements with weights and resistance) is effective for helping a person lose weight and keep it off.  The intensity of strength training can often make it a substitute for cardiovascular exercise on its own.


    Interval training using strength training is a knockout combo.  You can use dumbbells at home if you don't want to go to a gym.  It's my experience that solely doing aerobic exercise like Zumba and the treadmill or running doesn't cut it for long-term weight loss or fitness as a person gets older.


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    I'll report in a future SharePost about the number-one culprit in the poundage war and how to combat it.  It's not a person's lack of willpower or finances to join a gym.  The root will surprise you.


    The scant literature on fitness for individuals with schizophrenia is a starting point that needs to be reinforced with focused research linked to multiple areas: fitness, nutrition, spirituality, emotions, finance and other factors of well-being.


    I will report on the 8 Dimensions of Wellness in a future SharePost. 


    I'll end here by stating that there's hope: the dedicated professionals at the convention show how their grit and creativity can change things for the better as they research and examine pressing issues in mental health recovery.  The poster session presenters are at the vanguard of creating change.

Published On: May 19, 2014