Exercise Benefits for Those With PTSD

exercise benefits

By Debbie Gregory.

We’ve all heard about the many benefits that are derived from physical exercise; controlling weight, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, reducing the risk for type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, reducing the risk of some cancers, reducing the risk for high blood pressure, and strengthening your bones and muscles.

But now, new research has revealed that exercise can help patients with anxiety disorders reduce their symptoms.

Experiencing a traumatic event often results in an acute stress response, and the lingering memory may lead to mental and physical changes. This is often diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Studies have shown that stress (such as PTSD) can cause changes in chemical factors in the brain that affect health. Low-to-moderate intensity exercise can elevate mood, reduce anxiety, and act as an overall stress-buffer. Exercise, particularly mind-body and low-intensity aerobic exercise, has been shown to have a positive impact on the symptoms of depression and PTSD.

But just telling someone with PTSD to exercise, and feel better is not the answer. Since poor motivation and fatigue can be common symptoms of depression and/or PTSD, asking people who are experiencing PTSD to exercise can be challenging. Additionally, their symptoms can vary from day to day and may be triggered by seemingly innocuous situations, such as loud noises or crowds.

If you have PTSD, it may be a good idea to talk with a doctor about starting an exercise program. If you are currently working with a mental health provider, it may also be important to let them know that you are interested in starting an exercise program. Exercise can be an excellent form of behavioral activation, and your exercise goals may be able to be incorporated into the work that you are already doing with your therapist.

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