The effects of physical exercise in schizophrenia and affective disorders

  • Berend Malchow
  • Daniela Reich-Erkelenz
  • Viola Oertel-Knöchel
  • Katriona Keller
  • Alkomiet Hasan
  • Andrea Schmitt
  • Thomas W. Scheewe
  • Wiepke Cahn
  • René S. Kahn
  • Peter Falkai
Invited Review


Affective and non-affective psychoses are severe and frequent psychiatric disorders. Amongst others, they not only have a profound impact on affected individuals through their symptomatology, but also regarding cognition, brain structure and function. Cognitive impairment influences patients’ quality of life as well as their ability to work and being employed. While exercise therapy has been implemented in the treatment of psychiatric conditions since the days of Kraepelin and Bleuler, the underlying mechanisms have never been systematically studied. Since the early 1990s, studies emerged examining the effect of physical exercise in animal models, revealing stimulation of neurogenesis, synaptogenesis and neurotransmission. Based on that body of work, clinical studies have been carried out in both healthy humans and in patient populations. These studies differ with regard to homogenous study samples, sample size, type and duration of exercise, outcome variables and measurement techniques. Based on their review, we draw conclusions regarding recommendations for future research strategies showing that modern therapeutic approaches should include physical exercise as part of a multimodal intervention programme to improve psychopathology and cognitive symptoms in schizophrenia and affective disorders.


Schizophrenia Affective disorders Physical exercise Symptoms Cognitive remediation MRI 


Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Berend Malchow
    • 1
  • Daniela Reich-Erkelenz
    • 1
  • Viola Oertel-Knöchel
    • 2
  • Katriona Keller
    • 3
  • Alkomiet Hasan
    • 1
  • Andrea Schmitt
    • 1
    • 5
  • Thomas W. Scheewe
    • 4
    • 6
  • Wiepke Cahn
    • 4
  • René S. Kahn
    • 4
  • Peter Falkai
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyLudwig-Maximilians-University MunichMunichGermany
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry, Psychosomatic Medicine and PsychotherapyUniversity of Frankfurt/MainFrankfurtGermany
  3. 3.Department of Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine, Institute of Sport ScienceUniversity of GöttingenGöttingenGermany
  4. 4.Department of Psychiatry, Rudolf Magnus Institute for NeuroscienceUniversity Medical Center UtrechtUtrechtThe Netherlands
  5. 5.Laboratory of Neuroscience (LIM27), Institute of PsychiatryUniversity of Sao PauloSão PauloBrazil
  6. 6.Windesheim University of Applied SciencesZwolleThe Netherlands

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