People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) tend to have low rates of exercise. This may explain why many people with PTSD have been found to be at high risk for a number of physical health problems. These physical health problems include obesity, heart disease, pain, and diabetes. Below are several reasons as to why this may be the case.
Why People With PTSD Exercise Less
Exercise can increase bodily arousal and your heart will begin to race. You may also experience shortness of breath. Usually, many people do not think twice about these symptoms. However, if you are someone who suffers from PTSD, you may be hesitant to experience this arousal. Many people with PTSD fear bodily symptoms that are associated with anxiety. Increased heart rate is associated with anxiety and so is shortness of breath. People with PTSD may also fear that bodily arousal from exercise which might cause their hyperarousal symptoms to worsen. This results in people with PTSD avoiding exercise or any other activity that increases bodily arousal.
The Benefits of Exercise
Regular exercise has a number of benefits whether you suffer from PTSD or not. It can improve your health and physical outcome. Some ways include improved cardiovascular health, weight loss, and greater flexibility and mobility. Regular exercise also positively impacts your mental health by reducing anxiety and depression. People with PTSD would greatly benefit from both physical and mental health improvements made by exercise.
The Effect of Regular Exercise on Symptoms
Various studies show the effect of a regular exercise program on PTSD symptoms. In a study of adults with PTSD, a 12-week exercise program that included three 30-minute resistance training sessions a week, including walking, found a significant decrease in PTSD symptoms such as depression, and better sleep quality after the program ended.
Starting an Exercise Program
Check with your doctor first before you begin any exercise program. You want to make sure that you begin this journey with safety being your top priority. Your doctor might also be able to help you identify the best exercise given your goals, age, weight, or other physical health problems that you’re experiencing.
Start by letting your mental health provider know you are interested in beginning an exercise program. Behavioral activation is a great advantage when it comes to exercise, and your exercise goals may also be added into the work you’re already doing with your therapist.