Veterans Group Exercise: A randomized pilot trial of an Integrative Exercise program for veterans with posttraumatic stress

J Affect Disord. 2018 Feb:227:345-352. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2017.11.002. Epub 2017 Nov 4.


Background: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is prevalent among military veterans and is associated with significant negative health outcomes. However, stigma and other barriers to care prevent many veterans from pursuing traditional mental health treatment. We developed a group-based Integrative Exercise (IE) program combining aerobic and resistance exercise, which is familiar to veterans, with mindfulness-based practices suited to veterans with PTSD. This study aimed to evaluate the effects of IE on PTSD symptom severity and quality of life, as well as assess the feasibility and acceptability of IE.

Methods: Veterans (N = 47) were randomized to either IE or waitlist control (WL). Veterans in IE were asked to attend three 1-h group exercise sessions for 12 weeks.

Results: Compared with WL, veterans randomized to IE demonstrated a greater reduction in PTSD symptom severity (d = -.90), a greater improvement in psychological quality of life (d = .53) and a smaller relative improvement in physical quality of life (d = .30) Veterans' ratings of IE indicated high feasibility and acceptability.

Limitations: The sample was relatively small and recruited from one site. The comparison condition was an inactive control.

Conclusions: This initial study suggests that IE is an innovative approach to treating veterans with symptoms of PTSD that reduces symptoms of posttraumatic stress and improves psychological quality of life. This approach to recovery may expand the reach of PTSD treatment into non-traditional settings and to veterans who may prefer a familiar activity, such as exercise, over medication or psychotherapy.

Keywords: Exercise; Mindfulness; Posttraumatic stress disorder; Quality of life; Veterans.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mindfulness*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Psychotherapy, Group
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy*
  • Veterans / psychology*
  • Young Adult