Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a common but complex mental health condition associated with a previous stress or trauma. It affects each person in a different way however, it is typically associated with re-experiencing a traumatic event and results in hyper-arousal or a significant increase in anxiety. Symptoms of PTSD often are grouped into four main categories, including:
- Increased arousal
- Negative cognitions and mood
Additionally, PTSD can often be associated with physical symptoms such as musculoskeletal pain, chest pain and stomach pain. It may also increase the risk of some chronic diseases such as, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
Typically, treatment for PTSD often utilises a combination of psychological and pharmacological interventions which generally have great success. However, the benefit that exercise can have in those suffering from PTSD should not be underappreciated especially when used in combination with standard psychological and pharmacological treatments. As with many mental health conditions there have been numerous studies detailing the benefits of exercise intervention on PTSD.
A combination of aerobic and resistance exercise are ideal management strategies for both the psychological and physiological changes seen in those with PTSD. Aerobic exercise can potentially lead to a desensitisation of internal arousal, improved cognitive function, increased neuroplasticity, reduced depression, decreased anxiety and decreased inflammatory markers. Additionally, as aerobic exercise improves cardiorespiratory fitness it has the potential to significantly decrease the chronic disease risk associated with PTSD. Similarly, the inclusion of resistance or strength-based exercise may further reduce chronic disease risk. Studies have shown a decrease in symptoms of avoidance, improved sleep quality, reduced hyperarousal and anxiety following structured resistance exercise.
As PTSD presents differently in each person and varies significantly in severity it is important to speak with an Accredited Exercise Physiologist who can help you plan safe individualised and effective exercise.