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How Exercise Helps to Reduce My Schizophrenia Symptoms

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Editor's Note

Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.

If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

We all have priorities in our lives. Priorities define our actions and provide direction for everyday activities. Priorities could include your family, friends, following advice from doctors and being attentive to your own care and needs. Given my mental health diagnosis, taking medication as prescribed and consistent exercise are top priorities for me. In this article, I will focus on the importance of exercise.

There are different reasons why I exercise. Exercise is good for my body, especially for my heart and lungs. As the circulation of blood increases, I often experience a feeling of well-being or happiness. Another reason I exercise is to clear my head of symptoms such as hearing voices, seeing unexplained visuals and unexpected emotions. After my time on the treadmill, symptoms decrease, a smile often appears and I am motivated to lift weights and continue exercising.

Exercise also helps reduce feelings of aggression linked to my diagnosis of schizophrenia. Aggression and feelings of hopelessness can appear because of my mental health issues. The more mad I get, the harder I workout. This is a lot better for me than involvement in negative acts and in keeping all these unproductive thoughts inside.

Sometimes, it is important to add variety to my workout routine. I also do kickboxing because it’s another way to relieve stress and increase feelings of well-being. Often, I consider the size of the class to attend. I prefer working out with fewer people as this reduces my anxiety. On Tuesdays, at 4:45 p.m., there are only a handful of people in attendance.

I love kickboxing so much that recently I received a free t-shirt for participating in 200 sessions in my class. I am motivated by the instructor listing my accomplishments on the chalkboard and by putting on my boxing gloves and punching the bag. The class also includes other exercises like pushups and sit-ups. Occasionally, mild symptoms can arise but they soon disappear as I vigorously exercise and sweat drips from my forehead.

On the surface, I don’t tell anyone about my schizophrenia. The other students in the class are acquaintances. I enjoy seeing the same faces, especially when they have completed 100 to 200 classes. The end of a class is winning the war on a sedentary lifestyle and isolating myself in my apartment. The rage I feel about having a severe mental illness such as schizophrenia is diminished. The instructor keeps us motivated by saying, “Remember why you came here.”

After I work out, I like to write down what I have done on my calendar. I workout four to five times a week and try to finish strong at the end of each week. After completing a week of exercise, I am motivated to continue working out the next week. After four weeks, my calendar reminds me of my workout accomplishments for the month. Once working out turns into a routine, I often feel guilty for not exercising. However, I must be careful not to overexercise.

Focusing on my workout stimulates my brain and my symptoms often disappear. Exercise fills up the spaces that schizophrenia creates. I can’t think of a reason to stop exercising, because exercise, for me, can be as useful as therapy.

Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

Originally published: May 9, 2020
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