Decreased Physical Activity, Fitness Levels Observed in Schizophrenia

person sitting on a couch watching tv
person sitting on a couch watching tv
Investigators recommend tailoring exercise interventions to improve physical activity in patients with schizophrenia.

According to a paper published in Schizophrenia Research, patients with schizophrenia engage in less physical activity and have decreased cardiorespiratory fitness compared with the general population.  

Given the higher mortality rates seen in people with schizophrenia, a team of investigators conducted a randomized, controlled, parallel group, observer-blinded clinical trial to better characterize the factors contributing to this epidemiologic finding. 

The study included 67 adult patients with schizophrenia and 2809 controls. Data on patients with schizophrenia were collected from the Effects of Physical Activity in Psychosis Study (EPHAPS) and control data were collected from a population-based sample, the Norwegian Physical Activity Surveillance Survey (NPASS). All participants were recruited from various sites in Norway. 

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Participants wore accelerometers for the measurement of physical activity. Activities  classified as sedentary measured <100 counts per minute. Sedentary time of >7.5h per day was documented for each subject. Cardiorespiratory fitness levels were assessed using maximal oxygen uptake from exercise testing. 

Of the study participants, 55% did not meet physical activity recommendations and sat >7.5h per day compared with 32% of controls. The lowest levels of physical activity were noted during weekday afternoons and evenings, as well as weekends.   

Women with schizophrenia exhibited a peak oxygen uptake on an exercise test that was 23% lower than that of female controls, and men scored 34% lower than their control counterparts. 

The study may be limited by its generalizability as participation required ability and willingness to undergo exercising testing.

“People with schizophrenia are significantly less physically active, more sedentary, and have a poorer cardiorespiratory fitness level compared with the general population,” the researchers wrote. “Tailor-made [physical activity] interventions for people with schizophrenia should target their [physical activity] and sedentary behavior on afternoons and weekends especially.” Furthermore, “[t]he many extra barriers to [physical activity] that people with schizophrenia face should be taken into consideration,” the investigators recommended.


Anderson E, Holmen Tl, Egeland J, et al.  Physical activity pattern and cardiorespiratory fitness in individuals with schizophrenia compared with a population-based sample  [published online May 31, 2018].  Schizophr Res.