Association between exercise and posttraumatic stress symptoms among trauma-exposed adults

Eval Health Prof. 2015 Mar;38(1):42-52. doi: 10.1177/0163278713494774. Epub 2013 Jul 17.


The present investigation examined associations between intensities of exercise involvement and posttraumatic stress (PTS) symptom cluster severity (reexperiencing, avoidance/numbing, and hyperarousal). The sample was comprised of 108 adults (54.6% women; M age = 23.9, SD = 10.22, range = 18-62), who endorsed exposure to a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fourth edition, Text Revision) posttraumatic stress disorder Criterion A traumatic life event but did not meet criteria for any current Axis I psychopathology. After controlling for gender and lifetime number of trauma exposure types experienced, results indicated that vigorous-intensity exercise, but not light- or moderate-intensity exercise, was significantly inversely associated with hyperarousal symptom cluster severity. This study adds to the scarce, yet growing, body of exercise-PTS literature-by illuminating the inverse associations of vigorous-intensity exercise, specifically, and PTS hyperarousal symptom severity among trauma-exposed individuals.

Keywords: PTSD; exercise; physical activity; posttraumatic stress; trauma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Racial Groups
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Young Adult