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MIRECC Matters - Spring 2022 | Volume 23, Issue 1

A publication of the VISN 5 MIRECC - MIRECC Matters - Putting Recovery into Practice

Supervised Fitness Training for Older Adults with Psychotic Disorders

Dr. Anjana Muralidharan has just completed her Rehabilitation Research and Development funded Career Development Award, entitled “Supervised Fitness Training for Older Adults with Psychotic Disorders,” on which she was the principle investigator. As part of the study, Dr. Muralidharan developed a 24-week peer coaching intervention (PEER) for older adults with serious mental illness, to support their participation in a supervised fitness training program. Supervised fitness training included access to a VA gym facility, an exercise prescription, and the opportunity to exercise under the supervision of exercise physiologists.

The program was tested in a small open trial with 6 Veterans, then tested in a small randomized controlled trial (RCT) with 22 Veterans. In the RCT, peer coaching was compared to minimal support from non-peer staff. The main research question – does peer coaching result in higher levels of gym attendance? The answer: maybe. There was a small but statistically non-significant effect of peer coaching on gym attendance. A larger study is needed to follow-up on this preliminary finding.

Study results demonstrate the feasibility and acceptability of the program, with high levels of engagement and generally positive feedback from Veterans. There was a lot of variability in gym attendance, but a subset (approximately a third) were highly engaged, attending the gym between 1-3 times a week for the entire 24 weeks. Quantitative analyses indicated that supervised fitness training was associated with improvements in depression and cognition, and for high engagers, was associated with major changes in mood, health, and well-being.


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