When experiencing mental health difficulties, it can be hard for individuals with schizophrenia to focus on looking after themselves.
A lack of energy and a loss of motivation can result in an individual neglecting their physical well-being. Research has shown that poor diet, cigarette and alcohol use, and a lack of exercise all contribute to ill health. As with the general population, people with schizophrenia are also encouraged to adopt a healthy lifestyle and this includes taking regular exercise. Exercise is beneficial for the heart and lungs, helps build muscle and strengthens bones. Being overweight is a health risk and exercise is a good way to lose weight and/or minimize weight gain. For people with schizophrenia, this is particularly important as weight gain is a possible side-effect of some antipsychotic medication.
There is increasing evidence that exercise can help in the treatment of mental illness, and while it is not a replacement for medication, it may help with the management of schizophrenia. In addition to the physical benefits, studies have shown that exercise can lead to improved mood and concentration; it can reduce anxiety and stress; and it can help raise self-esteem and motivation.
Exercising in a group, such as an aerobics class or a game of football, encourages an individual to meet new people, reducing isolation and improving social skills. Exercise should be manageable and fun, and individuals should start slowly and gently. It is important for anyone to consult their doctor before starting any new exercise program.