Exercise augmentation compared with usual care for post-traumatic stress disorder: a randomized controlled trial

Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2015 May;131(5):350-9. doi: 10.1111/acps.12371. Epub 2014 Dec 1.


Objective: To investigate the impact of a 12-week exercise programme in addition to usual care for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Method: An assessor-blinded randomized controlled trial was conducted among 81 participants with a DSM-IV-TR diagnosis of primary PTSD. Participants were recruited after admission to an in-patient programme at a private hospital. Participants were randomized to receive either usual care (n=42), or exercise in addition to usual care (n=39). The exercise intervention involved three, 30-min resistance-training sessions/week and a pedometer-based walking programme. Usual care involved psychotherapy, pharmaceutical interventions, and group therapy. Primary outcome was PTSD symptoms assessed via the PTSD checklist-civilian version (PCL-C). Secondary outcomes included symptoms of depression, anthropometry, physical activity, mobility, strength, and sleep quality.

Results: Participants had a mean (SD) age of 47.8 years (12.1), 84% male. PTSD symptoms in the intervention group significantly reduced compared with the usual care group (mean difference=-5.4, 95% CI -10.5 to -0.3, P=0.04, n=58). There were significant between-group differences at follow-up for depressive symptoms, waist circumference, sleep quality, and sedentary time.

Conclusion: This study provides the first evidence that an exercise intervention is associated with reduced PTSD and depressive symptoms, reduced waist circumference, and improved sleep quality.

Keywords: exercise; physical activity; post-traumatic stress disorder; randomized controlled trial.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / etiology
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Dyssomnias / etiology
  • Dyssomnias / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychotherapy / methods
  • Psychotherapy, Group / methods
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Resistance Training / methods*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / complications
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / therapy
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Walking / psychology*


  • Psychotropic Drugs