Neurobiological effects of physical exercise in schizophrenia: a systematic review

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The aim of the present systematic review was to provide a summary of neurobiological effects of physical exercise for people with schizophrenia.
A systematic review was conducted in accordance with the preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses (PRISMA) statement. Searches were conducted up to April 2013 across three databases: Medline, PsycINFO, and Embase. A methodological quality assessment using the Downs and Black Quality Index was carried out with all of the included studies.
Of the 654 initial data search results, two studies reported in 3 articles including 48 patients (six women) with schizophrenia, met the eligibility criteria. The methodological quality of each study was high. Data on hippocampal volume changes following physical exercise were conflicting while physical exercise-induced changes in other brain areas were absent. Increases in hippocampal volume following physical exercise were correlated with improvements in aerobic fitness and short-term memory.
Future research is needed to investigate whether brain health in people with schizophrenia is activity-dependent. Additionally, research that considers the neurobiological mechanisms and associated functional outcomes of physical exercise in individuals with schizophrenia is required.
Understanding the neurobiological effects of physical exercise in patients with schizophrenia may contribute to the development of new rehabilitation strategies. There is currently insufficient evidence to determine if physical exercise has a beneficial influence on the brain health of people with schizophrenia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1749-1754
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Issue number21
Early online date2 Jan 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Physical Activity
  • physical therapy
  • Psychosis


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