Using Exercise to Help Manage PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. The consequences of such an event are a group of stress reactions, which produce a myriad of emotions such as fear, sadness, anger, and grief. For some individuals, PTSD can develop after being exposed to one traumatic event, and for others it can take multiple traumas. About 25% of people who are exposed to traumatic events develop PTSD.


Despite PTSD being a psychological health diagnosis, it can have profound impact on physiological and social health.

Physiological changes:

  • Weight fluctuations (weight gain or loss)
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased sedentary behaviours
  • Higher risk of diabetes

Social changes

  • Increased time spent at home
  • Avoid catching up with family and friends
  • Avoidance of busy or noise stimulating areas
  • Increased time spent away from work

Psychological Changes

  • Increased anxiety
  • Depressed mood
  • Poor sleep hygiene due to night terrors
  • Increased fear/avoidance associated with certain triggers


How can exercise be beneficial in the management of PTSD?


Regarding the physiological consequences, exercise helps to manage not only weight changes and blood pressure, but it’s a useful strategy to prevent increased sedentary behaviour, which is linked to increased time spent at home and avoidance of social interactions.

Increased weight gain is linked to a variety of other chronic conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. By managing weight, you reduce the risk of these chronic conditions, which if coupled with a condition such as PTSD, can be crippling and overwhelming.

The psychological benefits of exercise are profound. Exercise is a beneficial strategy in managing anxiety and depression, as well as improving sleep hygiene. In one study, researchers found that those who participated in vigorous exercise were 25 percent less likely to develop depression or an anxiety disorder over the following five years, telling us that if you suffer from anxiety and depression, an implemented exercise routine is a useful long-term strategy for helping to manage this condition.

Exercise is associated with improved quality of sleep hygiene, specifically, moderate-to-vigorous exercise: it can increase sleep quality for adults by reducing sleep onset (the time it takes to fall asleep) and decrease the amount of time they lie awake in bed during the night.


PTSD is a serious and complex condition, but with the right treatment plan and support, those who suffer with PTSD can manage their condition really well, and live a life worth living.