Schizophrenia is a complex and serious mental illness that interferes with the way a person perceives reality, relates to others, expresses emotions, thinks, and acts. The patient is often convinced that others are controlling their thoughts, reading their mind, or conspiring against them.
Obesity, weight gain, and a sedentary lifestyle are associated with schizophrenia. Previous studies have found that regular exercise programs have a positive effect on the mental and physical health of those with schizophrenia.
Now, a new study published in the journal Psychiatric Services suggests that active-play video games may improve aerobic fitness and boost the activity levels in schizophrenia patients. The study concludes that active-play video games can help schizophrenia patients enjoy and stick to an aerobic exercise program.
For the study, 16 schizophrenia patients with an average age of 36-years-old participated in a 12-week aerobic exercise program consisting of three one-hour exercise sessions each week. The aerobic exercise equipment used for the study included two Xbox 360 video game systems with the Kinect motion-sensing device. The Kinect device allowed for the interactive whole-body fitness experience. Other exercise equipment used for the study included two treadmill machines, an elliptical exercise machine, and a stationary bike.
A trainer with four years of aerobic exercise experience and a Bachelor of Science degree in therapeutic recreation led the exercise sessions. Each session included a 10-minute joint warmup period, 45 minutes on the equipment, and five minutes to cool down. During the 45 minutes of equipment use, participants were given the option to use any of the four exercise equipment options, including the Xbox 360 with Kinect fitness device.
Approximately 81% of participants completed the 12-week exercise program and had attended 79% of the sessions. Participants spent 39% of their time on the Xbox—more time than they spent on any other form of exercise equipment. The schizophrenia patients reported high enjoyment and acceptability rates when using the Xbox system. They also recommended the system to others and had future plans to continue playing the exercise video game console.
The study also found that the average heart rate of the participants using the video game had been similar when the elliptical machine or treadmill had been used.
The study authors commented on the findings, “Our results provide preliminary support for the integration of such technologies into AE (aerobic exercise) training programs for this population (schizophrenia patients).”
“We are currently developing a multisite study examining the use of such technologies in a larger sample of individuals with schizophrenia,” explained lead study author Dr. David Kimhy.
The results are consistent with other studies of active-play video games as an aerobic exercise-training program for schizophrenia patients. Dr. Kimhy also led a research team that found that traditional exercise equipment or aerobic exercise with active-play video games can improve the neurocognition and aerobic fitness in schizophrenia patients. The results from the previous study were published in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin in March of 2015.
Besides Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo Wii also offer active-play video game devices.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Kimhy, D., et al., “Use of Active-Play Video Games to Enhance Aerobic Fitness in Schizophrenia: Feasibility, Safety, and Adherence,” Psychiatric Services 2015, doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201400523.
Kimhy, D., et al., “The Impact of Aerobic Exercise on Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor and Neurocognition in Individuals With Schizophrenia: A Single-Blind, Randomized Clinical Trial,” Schizophrenia Bulletin 2015, doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbv022.
Brooks, M., “Active-Play Video Games May Boost Fitness in Schizophrenia,” Medscape Multispecialty web site, November 3, 2015; http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/853654.
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Gorcynski, P., et al., “Exercise therapy for schizophrenia,” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010; (5): CD004412, doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD004412.pub2.
Bassilios, B., “Physical exercise activity in individuals with schizophrenia,” The University of Melbourne web site; https://minerva-access.unimelb.edu.au/handle/11343/36791, last accessed November 4, 2015.