Structured exercise including resistance training and walking helps people recover from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as well as other mental health conditions, a new study has revealed. The study was published in the medical journal Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica.
Study author Simon Rosenbaum, of The George Institute for Global Health and The University of Sydney in Australia, said: “This study provides the first evidence from a clinical trial using hospitalised patients that exercise is associated with reduced PTSD and depressive symptoms, reduced waist circumference and improved sleep quality.”
PTSD can occur following a traumatic event, such as threats to safety or exposure to horrific events, and affects five to 10 per cent of the population, with rates significantly higher for returned soldiers or police officers.
Those suffering from PTSD can suffer from flashbacks, emotional detachment, insomnia, poor physical health, weight gain and hypervigilance.
Traditionally, treatment has involved medication, psychotherapy and group therapy.
The ground-breaking study was carried out with the help of 81, mostly male patients, overwhelmingly from a service or police background, at St John Of God Health Care’s Richmond Hospital’s PTSD treatment programme in Australia.
Richmond Hospital Chief Executive Officer, Strephon Billinghurst, confirmed the impact of Dr Rosenbaum’s work. “Since this ground-breaking research, structured exercise interventions have become a key component of the approach we use in supporting patients recover from PTSD.”
John Bale, CEO of Soldier On, an Australia-based veteran’s charity affiliated with Richmond Hospital, said: “This study formalises what many have found to be true after leaving the service – exercise helps in the management of the negative psychological effects of war.
“Soldier On has promoted physical training as a tool in recovery since its founding, and we see many men and women benefiting from the use of regular exercise as a way to manage their mental health, particularly with cases of PTSD.
“Thousands have been affected by their service, and this study will help to encourage many more of these men and women to stay fit and healthy as they recover.”
Dr Rosenbaum said the study provided the evidence that exercise boosts to people’s ability to manage their PTSD using traditional methods.
“We believe that this study will change treatment all over the world.”
“This study provides the evidence that people suffering from severe PTSD should have an exercise programme included as part of their treatment and management.”
Dr Rosenbaum said the study results build on the findings other trials investigating the effects of exercise on people with depression and schizophrenia.
“It underscores the wider evidence that exercise is a powerful therapy for the mind, and for a variety of mental health conditions.”