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Prog Neurobiol. 2012 Jan;96(1):46-68. doi: 10.1016/j.pneurobio.2011.11.007. Epub 2011 Nov 24.

Cognitive and behavioural effects of physical exercise in psychiatric patients.

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Department of Psychiatry, Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University of Frankfurt/Main, Heinrich Hoffmann Str. 12, 60528 Frankfurt, Germany.


The current review outlines the under-appreciated effects of physical exercise on the course of psychiatric disorders, focussing on recent findings from animal and human research. Several studies have shown that regular physical exercise is significantly beneficial for psychiatric patients both on a biological and a psychological level. Positive effects of controlled exercise include improved metabolic responses, neuro-protection, increased quality of life, and reduced psychopathological symptoms. Studies investigating the effectiveness of various physical training interventions in alleviating severe mental diseases, such as Alzheimer's dementia (AD), schizophrenia (SZ) or major depressive disorder (MDD) indicate that physical exercise can relieve symptoms of depression, psychosis and dementia and more importantly can curtail further progression of these diseases. This review assesses the most effective methods of physical training for specific psychiatric symptoms. Introducing physical exercise in therapeutic regimes would be an innovative approach that could significantly reduce the severity of psychopathological and cognitive symptoms in patients. The positive biological and molecular outcomes associated with physical exercise render it a concrete therapeutic strategy for improving the quality of live and reducing physical illness in psychiatric patients. Therefore, integrating physical activity into a patient's social life may be an effective treatment strategy. Furthermore, exercise might have the potential to be a preventative treatment within the context of multi-modal therapeutic programs.

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