Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be brought about by any situation that an individual finds traumatic. We often hear about PTSD in the news with people who have been serving in the military, any one of us can suffer from PTSD, it can be brought on by health problems, road accidents, sexual assault and/or seeing/witnessing scenes of a horrific nature.
PTSD does not necessarily occur straight after the event, it can occur weeks, months, years later. If you know somebody who has gone through a traumatic experience check in regularly with them to make sure they are okay, 1/3 of people who suffer a traumatic event will develop PTSD.
Benefits of Exercise
Exercise benefits many, people, we know people who regularly perform physical activity are less likely to suffer from anxiety and depression, does this still apply to people with PTSD? YES, the benefits of exercise do not change.
In adults, research has shown physical activity, resistance training and walking program, to be more helpful/beneficial in the treatment of PTSD than usual care for patients hospitalised. Patients who carried out exercise improved their mental and physical health (wait circumference and body fat). The exercise group carried out 3 x 30 minute resistance sessions per week and a pedometer walking program. Usual care involved medication, group therapy and psychotherapy. Not only were symptoms of PTSD reduced significantly but secondary measures such as improved sleep, symptoms of depressions reduced, strength increased, mobility improved and body measurements decreased.
In children research has shown 3 x 40 minutes a week has a positive effect on PTSD, depression and anxiety.
What exercise should you do?
What-ever is manageable for you at the present time. This always seems to be an easy way out by saying that, but it is dependent on you and how you are currently feeling. Do you like running? Walking? Swimming? Cycling? Sports? Start with an activity you like and one that you will adhere to.
Both resistance training (lifting weights) and cardiovascular training have benefits to PTSD. Again, start where you feel comfortable, select a weight you can manage 10 repetitions with, if you make it to 10 easily, add a little more, complete 3 x 10 repetitions. Cardiovascular training, steady state and intervals are reported to have positive effects on mental health.
There is no one way fits all for recommending exercise as a treatment, the exercise preference is, as always down the individual. Select something that you like and enjoy, this will increase the chances that you will adhere to the routine, for some it could be Yoga, others it could be lifting weights. Start your exercise journey with a small achievable goal, 3 x 20 minutes walks this week as an example, then build on it once you have achieved it. What you do not want to do is set yourself something which is too big and unachievable at present, this could put you under undue stress.