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Exercise is beneficial in many different aspects of life. It can have a huge impact on improving one’s mental and/or physical health. One factor that can be effective on one’s mental or physical health is stress. Specifically, posttraumatic stress disorder provides results of reduced and improved effects from various types of exercises, neurobiological benefits, as well as sleep quality.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder in which an individual is having a difficult time in recovering from experiencing a traumatic event. Scioli-Salter el al. (2016) study found that cardiopulmonary exercise and cardiorespiratory fitness is showing positive effects on the plasma neuropeptide Y (NPY), allopregnanolone and pregnanolone (ALLO), cortisol, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), which benefits the neurological feature of an individual with PTSD. Also, the capacity for NPY synthesis and release is related to cardiorespiratory fitness, which is correlated to the results of this study showing positive correlations between peak oxygen consumption, baseline, and peak NPY levels. As reviewed by Scioli-Salter, pain can set-off a memory of a traumatic event. So, returning back to normal NPY and ALLO levels can help manage chronic pain, which is an effect of PTSD, in individuals diagnosed with the disorder.
Distinct physical activities are tested and provide evidence for results of decreasing the unfavorable effects of posttraumatic stress disorder. In adult females showed improvements after just one month of completing sixty minutes of aerobic exercise weekly. Preliminary research tested that depression – one of the most commonly studied symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder – did show a significant decrease in effects through aerobic exercise. The research resulted in revealing that aerobic exercise benefitted patients with posttraumatic stress disorder in a therapeutic (anxiolytic) aspect, reducing any anxiety, distress, or fear. Due to these types of symptoms showing that posttraumatic stress disorder is largely behavioral and anxiety based, any type of exercise to calm one’s mentality can be effective. A second type of exercise that is largely valuable in benefitting patients with this disorder is yoga. This form of physical activity is “mind- body oriented” focusing specifically on stretching and breathing exercises as well as restoring one’s focus on the present, helping those living with symptoms due to traumatic exposure over an extended period of time. Sixty adult females were tested to verify positive benefits, revealing lower levels of depression, engagement in negative activities such as drugs and alcohol, and dissociation from surrounding family members and friends.
An additional symptom patients experience when coping with posttraumatic stress disorder is poor sleep quality, due to excessive fear and anxiety from previous traumatic experiences. Getting a good night’s sleep is vital to a person’s health, so if someone has poor sleep quality over an extended period of time, his or her health can be negatively impacted. Testing performed on Veterans living with posttraumatic stress disorder revealed that exercise consistently benefitted their sleep quality through interoceptive exposure.
Overall, it is apparent that exercise is beneficial in reducing the effects of posttraumatic stress. Aerobic exercise, yoga, and interoceptive exposure are all research based methods proven to benefit sleep quality, allow for focus on the present, and reduce anxiety/stress/fear in various people living with this disorder. Neurobiological effects are also apparent as a direct outcome of various exercises and distinct physical activities. Exercise is not only beneficial for PTSD patients and their mental and physical well-being but is also advantageous to all individuals whether living with a specific disorder or not and should be engaged in frequently.
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