New Primary Prescription For Psych patients: Exercise

When issues comes to inpatient treatment of a range of mental health and mood disorder; from anxiety and depression to schizophrenia, suicidality and acute psychotic episodes; a new study advocates for exercise, rather than psychotropic medications, as the primary prescription and method of intervention. Findings from the study reveal that physical exercise; is so effective at alleviating patient symptoms that it could reduce patients’ time admit to acute facilities; and reliance on psychotropic medications.

“The general attitude of medicine is that you treat the primary problem first; and exercise was never consider to be a life or death treatment option. Now that we know it’s so effective, it can become as fundamental as pharmacological intervention,” explains David Tomasi, a lecturer at the University of Vermont; psychotherapist and inpatient psychiatry group therapist at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

Psychotropic Medications

Practitioners at inpatient psychiatric facilities; often crowded, acute settings in which patients experience severe distress and discomfort;typically prescribe psychotropic medications first, rather than natural remedies like physical exercise; to alleviate patients’ symptoms such as anger, anxiety and depression. In fact, Tomasi estimates that only a handful of inpatient psychiatric hospitals in the U.S. provide; psychotherapist-support gym facilities exclusively for these patients.

Instead, practitioners rely on classical psychotherapeutic and pharmacological frameworks; to treat psychiatric symptoms, which they monitor to determine when a patient is ready to be discharge from the facility.Tomasi; in collaboration with UVMMC’s Sheri Gates and Emily Reyns, built a gym exclusively for roughly 100 patients in the medical center’s inpatient psychiatry unit; and led and introduce 60-minute structure exercise and nutrition education programs into their treatment plans.

Psychotherapists Surveyed Patients

The psychotherapists survey patients on their mood, self-esteem and self-image both before and after the exercise sessions to gauge the effects of exercise on psychiatric symptoms. Patients reported lower levels of anger, anxiety and depression, higher self-esteem, and overall improve moods. Tomasi, Gates and Reyns found an average of 95 % of patients report that their moods improv; after doing the structure exercises; while 63 % of the patients report being happy or very happy, as opposed to neutral, sad or very sad, after the exercises.

An average of 91.8 of patients also reported that they were please; with the way their bodies felt after doing the structured exercises. “The fantastic thing about these results is that, if you’re in a psychotic state; you’re sort of limited with what you can do in terms of talk therapy or psychotherapy. It’s hard to receive a message through talk therapy in that state, whereas with exercise, you can use your body and not rely on emotional intelligence alone” explains Tomasi.

“The priority is to provide more natural strategies for the treatment of mood disorders, depression and anxiety,” he adds. “In practice, we hope that every psychiatric facility will include integrative therapies—in our case, exercise in particular—as the primary resource for their patients’ psycho-physical wellbeing.”