Exercise behaviours and motivation after a first psychotic episode: A digital intervention

Early Interv Psychiatry. 2024 Feb 14. doi: 10.1111/eip.13518. Online ahead of print.


Aim: Research has demonstrated that participation in aerobic exercise can have significant beneficial effects across both physical and mental health domains for individuals who are in the early phase of schizophrenia. Despite these notable benefits of exercise, deficits in motivation and a lack of methods to increase engagement are significant barriers for exercise participation, limiting these potentially positive effects. Fortunately, digital health tools have the potential to improve adherence to an exercise program. The present study examined the role of motivation for exercise and the effects of an automated digital text messaging program on participation in an aerobic exercise program.

Methods: A total of 46 first-episode psychosis participants from an ongoing 12-month randomized clinical trial (Enhancing Cognitive Training through Exercise Following a First Schizophrenia Episode (CT&E-RCT)) were included in an analysis to examine the efficacy of motivational text messaging. Personalized motivational text message reminders were sent to participants with the aim of increasing engagement in the exercise program.

Results: We found that participants with higher levels of intrinsic motivation to participate in a text messaging program and in an exercise intervention completed a higher proportion of individual, at-home exercise sessions. In a between groups analysis, participants who received motivational text messages, compared to those who did not, completed a higher proportion of at-home exercise sessions.

Conclusion: These results indicate the importance of considering a person's level of motivation for exercise and the potential utility of using individualized and interactive mobile text messaging reminders to increase engagement in aerobic exercise in the early phase of psychosis. We emphasize the need for understanding how individualized patient preferences and needs interplay between intrinsic motivation and digital health interventions for young adults.

Keywords: aerobic exercise; digital intervention; first episode psychosis; intrinsic motivation; text-messaging program.