BACKGROUND: Here we aimed to clarify the association of physical activity with cognitive function and current mood in severe mental disorders in the most extensive sample to date. Secondly, we aimed to investigate the relationship between physical activity and BDNF mRNA levels.
METHODS: Three hundred and six patients with a DSM-IV Schizophrenia (SZ) or Bipolar Disorder spectrum (BD) diagnosis were included. Clinical characteristics were assessed using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV. Depressive symptomatology was measured using the Inventory of Depressive Symptoms (IDS-C) and the Calgary Depression Scale for Schizophrenia (CDSS). All patients underwent neuropsychological assessment. Physical activity was measured as hours spent on any regular physical activity (≥ or ˂ 90 min) per week. BDNF mRNA was measured in plasma using standardized procedures.
RESULTS: Patients with ≥90 min of physical activity per week had fewer depressive symptoms (p˂0.001, Cohen's d = 0.48) and performed significantly better on working memory (p˂0.001, d = 0.44) and executive functioning tasks (p˂0.001, d = 0.50) compared to the ˂90 min group. BDNF mRNA was positively associated with physical activity (p = 0.046) and cognitive functioning (p = 0.037).
CONCLUSIONS: Our study suggests a positive association between self-reported physical activity, cognitive function, mood and BDNF mRNA levels in severe mental disorders.