Exercise & Psychosis Medication

Has your child or someone you know recently started taking antipsychotics?

Are you worried about possible medication side effects and want to know how to best combat these?

Antipsychotic medication is often used to treat symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar affective disorder and to reduce the risk of a person becoming unwell in the future.  These medications often work very well, however, one of the most common side effects is weight gain. We know that weight gain is not only a risk to an individual’s physical health but also other aspects of mental health such as their self-esteem and mood.  The largest weight gain happens in the first 6 months of starting to take these medications. Having exercise as part of their regular routine from the start can really help.

Antipsychotic medication is thought to contribute to weight gain through its effect on appetite and energy metabolism.  What that means is that people feel hungry, eat more food and higher calorie food, as well as burn fewer calories. In addition the medication can contribute to fatigue that can lead to decreased motivation to exercise and eat well, and withdraw from social activities.

Exercise has been shown to have beneficial effects on weight loss, waist circumference and other physical health indicators.  In addition, exercise is beneficial for mental health and psychological wellbeing.

If you have a child or someone you know on antipsychotic medication; here are 5 tips you can do to keep them healthier and reduce the side effects:

  1. Try different types of exercise to find what they enjoy.  This will help to make exercise maintainable, as there is no point forcing them to do something that they will hate.

  2. Help the person to have access to exercise in a supportive environment led by professionals who know how to help young people in this situation.

  3. Help them to make healthy food choices through food that they have access to at home.  It can also be very helpful to get some advice from a Registered Dietician

  4. Encourage them to start small.  Doing any exercise is better than nothing! As soon as they start moving they will feel better and the more they move the better they can feel.

  5. Celebrate their achievements. Be supportive when they make a step in the right direction no matter how small that step is.

As Exercise Physiologists we understand that maintaining the motivation to exercise can be difficult, and particularly when starting these medications.  That is why at the start we take the time to get to know our clients. We learn about them, what they enjoy and don’t enjoy, and together come up with a plan about how we are going to work together to achieve their goals.