Effects of Exercise on Physical and Mental Health, and Cognitive and Brain Functions in Schizophrenia: Clinical and Experimental Evidence

CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2015;14(10):1244-54. doi: 10.2174/1871527315666151111130659.


Exercise promotes several health benefits, such as cardiovascular, musculoskeletal and cardiorespiratory improvements. It is believed that the practice of exercise in individuals with psychiatric disorders, e.g. schizophrenia, can cause significant changes. Schizophrenic patients have problematic lifestyle habits compared with general population; this may cause a high mortality rate, mainly caused by cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. Thus, the aim of this study is to investigate changes in physical and mental health, cognitive and brain functioning due to the practice of exercise in patients with schizophrenia. Although still little is known about the benefits of exercise on mental health, cognitive and brain functioning of schizophrenic patients, exercise training has been shown to be a beneficial intervention in the control and reduction of disease severity. Type of training, form of execution, duration and intensity need to be better studied as the effects on physical and mental health, cognition and brain activity depend exclusively of interconnected factors, such as the combination of exercise and medication. However, one should understand that exercise is not only an effective nondrug alternative, but also acts as a supporting linking up interventions to promote improvements in process performance optimization. In general, the positive effects on mental health, cognition and brain activity as a result of an exercise program are quite evident. Few studies have been published correlating effects of exercise in patients with schizophrenia, but there is increasing evidence that positive and negative symptoms can be improved. Therefore, it is important that further studies be undertaken to expand the knowledge of physical exercise on mental health in people with schizophrenia, as well as its dose-response and the most effective type of exercise.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Cognition* / physiology
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Exercise / psychology
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology*
  • Schizophrenia / therapy*
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*