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The role of a fitness intervention on people with serious psychiatric disabilities.


Abstract written by Rich Matula

Skrinar, G. S., Huxley, N. A., Hutchinson, D. S., Menninger, E., & Glew, P. (2005). The role of a fitness intervention on people with serious psychiatric disabilities. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 29(2), 122-127.

Purpose: To determine if a cardiovascular and resistance training program would improve body composition and fitness, as well as improve emotional well-being and general feelings of wellness in people with mood or psychotic disorders.

Participants:
Thirty male and female adults with mood or psychiatric disorders age 18 to 55 years, who had started psychiatric medication in the previous 24 months with a weight gain of 10 pounds. They were not required to be taking the weight-causing medication at the time of study.

Method:
Thirty adults with mood or psychotic disorders were assigned to a healthy life group or control group and were introduced to a 12-week progressive exercise program with 4 exercise bouts per week and one 30- to 45-minute health seminar featuring a different wellness topic each week. The sessions included a warm-up, cardiovascular training, and cool-down. In addition, 2 sessions per week featured resistance training. Physiological measures were taken after the exercise program and compared with the baseline score. Components measured were: total cholesterol and lipid profiles, body composition, resting ECG, and an exercise tolerance test to measure volitional exhaustion.

Psychological measurements were also taken using 5 different questionnaires, including SCL-90, Lehman Quality of Life Questionnaire, the Boston University Making Decisions Questionnaire, and MOS36 Item Short Form Health Survey. After the program, scores were compared to baseline scores and analyzed using analysis of variance (ANOVA).

Results:
Ten people, or 33%, dropped out of the study. There was a 63% exercise compliance rate on average for the subjects who completed the study. There was no significant difference between the participants and the control group in weight, BMI, body fat percentage, pulse rate, blood lipid, or any of the other physiological measures.

Regarding the psychological measures, a subjective rating of general health and empowerment was significantly improved in the exercise group. Despite none of the differences being significant, the scores on all of the tests increased in a positive direction following the exercise program.

Discussion:
Despite this study being too limited in duration to show significant physiological differences, especially with the low compliance rates, it provides some encouraging results for people with psychiatric disabilities and can probably be transferred to others with physical disabilities. The low compliance rate was a concern. That's because that even in a structured exercise program with researchers extremely motivated to have the subjects participate as often as possible in the exercise bouts, there was still a high dropout rate. Research needs to determine types of exercise programs or sports participation that will achieve the same psychological and physiological gains while encouraging continuing participation.


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