Int J Psychophysiol. 2016 Aug 27;
A bidirectional connection exists between obesity and altered heart rate variability (HRV). Schizophrenia has been associated with a high risk of obesity and decreased vagal modulation. Few studies have examined the link between obesity and HRV in patients with schizophrenia. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of aerobic exercise on body weight and HRV, and if so, whether these effects could be sustained after discontinuation of exercise training. A total of 18 overweight patients with schizophrenia completed an 8-week moderate-intensity aerobic exercise program conducted twice weekly for 50min. Body weight and heart rate variability were measured at baseline, week 8, and 4weeks after discontinuation of exercise training. Compared with the control group (15 overweight patients with schizophrenia without exercise training), the exercise group had reduced 2.3kg at week 8. Furthermore, the exercise program increased the low frequency, high frequency, and low frequency plus high frequency of HRV. However, after discontinuation of the exercise program for 4weeks, the changes in body weight and the HRV parameters diverged. All of the HRV parameters returned to their baseline values, but no change was seen in the reduced body weight. This suggests that HRV analysis is a more sensitive tool to detect health conditions in patients with schizophrenia. Although exercise is an easy and effective way to prevent and improve health problems, mental health providers might have underestimated the benefits of exercise in daily clinical practice. A regular exercise program should be considered as an essential part of treatment strategies for patients with schizophrenia.