The effects and determinants of exercise participation in first-episode psychosis: a qualitative study

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BACKGROUND: Previous qualitative studies have found that exercise may facilitate symptomatic and functional recovery in people with long-term schizophrenia. This study examined the perceived effects of exercise as experienced by people in the early stages of psychosis, and explored which aspects of an exercise intervention facilitated or hindered their engagement. METHODS: Nineteen semi-structured interviews were conducted with early intervention service users who had participated in a 10-week exercise intervention. Interviews discussed people's incentives and barriers to exercise, short- and long-term effects, and opinions on optimal interventions. A thematic analysis was applied to determine the prevailing themes. RESULTS: The intervention was perceived as beneficial and engaging for participants. The main themes were (a) exercise alleviating psychiatric symptoms, (b) improved self-perceptions following exercise, and (c) factors determining exercise participation, with three respective sub-themes for each. CONCLUSIONS: Participants explained how exercise had improved their mental health, improved their confidence and given them a sense of achievement. Autonomy and social support were identified as critical factors for effectively engaging people with first-episode psychosis in moderate-to-vigorous exercise. Implementing such programs in early intervention services may lead to better physical health, symptom management and social functioning among service users. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN09150095 . Registered 10 December 2013.
Original languageEnglish
Article number36
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2016


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