Objectives: We examined the association of physical activity with prospectively assessed posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in a military cohort.
Methods: Using baseline and follow-up questionnaire data from a large prospective study of U.S. service members, we applied multivariable logistic regression to examine the adjusted odds of new-onset and persistent PTSD symptoms associated with light/moderate physical activity, vigorous physical activity, and strength training at follow-up.
Results: Of the 38,883 participants, 89.4% reported engaging in at least 30 minutes of physical activity per week. At follow-up, those who reported proportionately less physical activity were more likely to screen positive for PTSD. Vigorous physical activity had the most consistent relationship with PTSD. Those who reported at least 20 minutes of vigorous physical activity twice weekly had significantly decreased odds for new-onset (odds ratio [OR] = 0.58, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.49, 0.70) and persistent (OR = 0.59, 95% CI 0.42, 0.83) PTSD symptoms.
Conclusions: Engagement in physical activity, especially vigorous activity, is significantly associated with decreased odds of PTSD symptoms among U.S. service members. While further longitudinal research is necessary, a physical activity component may be valuable to PTSD treatment and prevention programs.