The majority of psychosocial difficulties associated with schizophrenia are due to negative symptoms and cognitive impairment, (Green 1996). These may be caused by progressive structural and functional brain abnormalities, (Andreasen et al. 2011). Antipsychotics are not generally effective for these symptoms, and are associated with a reduction in brain volume (Wang et al. 2013).
Physical exercise may be effective for negative symptoms, cognitive impairment, prevention of grey matter loss, and may reduce the metabolic side effects of antipsychotics – i.e. weight gain, (Pajonk et al. 2010). Exercise may be particularly effective in early psychosis, when individuals are metabolically normal, and before structural and functional brain changes have become entrenched.
The aim of iBeep is to see how feasible it is to use exercise as an intervention in early psychosis to examine its effects on mental and physical health. It is a within-subject before and after trial of a 10 week individualised intervention of physical exercise. Researchers will work with participants to create an exercise plan for each week, and accompany them to classes or fitness suites as a ‘gym buddy’.