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Exercise positive for psychiatric patients

There is growing evidence that physical activity such as bike riding is beneficial to mental health and well-being, and now studies are showing that it gets positive results for psychiatric inpatients as well.

The University of Vermont introduced a structured exercise program into the treatment regime of about 100 psychiatric inpatients with complex needs.

"The research yielded positive outcomes in all areas investigated, suggesting the positive effects of exercise and mind–body strategies in the context of psychotherapy in inpatient psychiatry,” the researchers report.

"Physical exercise may be a helpful way to reduce mental health disorders in the context of inpatient psychiatry by targeting anxiety, depression, anger, psychomotor agitation, and muscle tension and addressing stressors and triggers and to develop a more balanced and integrated sense of self.”

The patients were offered exercise groups followed by nutrition education sessions four times a week.

Each 60-minute exercise session consisted in a combination of cardiovascular training, resistance training, and flexibility development inclusive of (a) free-body exercises; (b) stretching and strengthening exercises; and (c) muscle activation-specific fitness equipment such as upright and recumbent bikes, ellipticals, standard rowers and water rowers, push-up bars and stands, bosu balance trainers, exercise balls, handheld fitness balls, balance pods, and aerobic steps.

The sessions also facilitated discussions around the challenges of maintaining a healthy lifestyle with fluctuating psychiatric concerns attributed to cognitive functioning.

More than 90% of the patients reported improved mood and that their body felt better. Ninety-seven per cent were prepared to exercise more and make the room in their therapeutic schedule.

The researchers said achieved improved state of Mind–Body Flexibility (which could be simplified as “Changing Body via Changing Mind” and vice versa) allowed patients to better understand, monitor, and control their psycho-physical well-being.