Dr. Joseph Firth: The Role of Exercise and Nutrition in Early Psychosis


This week on MIA Radio we interview Dr. Joseph Firth. Dr. Firth is a postdoctoral research fellow at Western Sydney University. His research focuses on the role of exercise and nutrition in first episode psychosis in young people.

In this interview we discuss:

  • That Dr. Firth completed his PhD in Manchester, UK, which focussed on the role of exercise in the treatment of psychosis in young people.
  • That he now works on a programme of adjunctive and novel treatments for psychosis, particularly the role of exercise and nutrition and including technology and mobile health.
  • How results show that exercise can reduce symptoms in young people such as the cognitive deficit, lack of motivation and social withdrawal and that these are symptoms that the medications don’t really help with.
  • That, in the very early stages of psychotic illness, there are currently few interventions other than therapy, so exercise and nutrition could have a role in reducing the need for antipsychotic drugs and even potentially affect the onset of psychotic symptoms.
  • That qualitative research has shown that young people report that their symptoms are reduced or become less troubling when they exercise.
  • How exercise and nutrition have key roles in reducing the health inequalities that are seen in young people treated with antipsychotic drugs.

Relevant links:

A qualitative study of exercise in early psychosis

Exercise useful for cognitive functioning in psychosis

Feasibility study of exercise for young people with psychosis

B-Vitamins as an add-on treatment for Schizophrenia

To get in touch with us email: [email protected]

© Mad in America 2017

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Bernalyn Ruiz
MIA Research News Team: Bernalyn Ruiz is a doctoral student at the University of Massachusetts Boston and has a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Columbia University. She is engaged in research on psychosis and stigma from a social justice perspective. She is a proud daughter of Mexican immigrants and hopes to play her small part in improving Latinx mental health.


    • This may be obvious to many readers on this site but not to many others including many psychiatrists. When my son had his first psychotic episode I was repeatedly told by many “experts” that his extremely poor diet and lifestyle choices had “absolutely nothing to do with his mental breakdown.” We have come a little ways since that time in 2010. During his last hospitalization he was given vitamins and received some counselling from a dietician. He is doing quite a bit better now. Thank you Dr. Firth for the work you are doing! The changes are slow but they are coming.

    • You are right the psychiatrists don’t know this, one of my psychiatrists tried to get me to stop exercising. The psychiatrists need to be educated in common sense, since I’m quite certain most of them confuse the common sense of the majority, with “millions of voices,” at least I dealt with a psychiatrist who made that mistake. It’s sad the psychiatrists have no common sense, however.

  1. “How results show that exercise can reduce symptoms in young people such as the cognitive deficit, lack of motivation and social withdrawal and that these are symptoms that the medications don’t really help with.”

    …this is such a HUGE statement… and something that we feel in our gut to be the crucial element to helping our loved one. There is much argument out there about the cognitive deficits of the severely ill: it is what makes a lot of people who believe in more mainstream approaches to psychosis, question the ‘severity’ of distress of the ‘articulate’ survivors who post here. However, their reasoning is pretty circular as, as mentioned in this article, the medications do not help the cognitive deficits anyways. There certainly needs to be a lot more attention paid to this important point.