"Our results indicate that poor aerobic fitness represents a modifiable risk factor for cognitive dysfunction in people with schizophrenia for which aerobic exercise training offers a safe, non-stigmatizing and side-effect-free intervention," said lead author David Kimhy
in a journal news release.
He is an assistant professor in psychiatry and director of the Experimental Psychopathology Lab at the New York State Psychiatric Institute in New York City.
The researchers said a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor -- which increases with physical activity -- may be "a potential mechanism" for the exercise-related improvements in schizophrenia patients' mental function.
"If replicated, our findings may lead to the integration of aerobic exercise into standard psychiatric treatment for people with schizophrenia and other severe mental health problems, Kimhy
The study only found an association between exercise and mental function.
noted, however, that along with the well-documented benefits of exercise, such as better heart health and help with weight management, aerobic exercise appears to offer the potential to improve mental function in people with schizophrenia.