Feasibility of Resistance Exercise for Posttraumatic Stress and Anxiety Symptoms: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Study

J Trauma Stress. 2019 Dec;32(6):977-984. doi: 10.1002/jts.22464. Epub 2019 Nov 19.


Emerging evidence suggests that exercise may beneficially affect posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS), but few randomized trials exist. Additionally, the effects of resistance exercise (i.e., weight lifting or strength training) on PTSS have not been thoroughly examined. This study aimed to explore the feasibility of a brief high-intensity resistance exercise intervention for PTSS and related issues, such as anxiety, sleep, alcohol use, and depression, in non-treatment-seeking adults who screened positive for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety. The sample included 30 non-treatment-seeking, urban-dwelling adults (M age = 29.10 years, SD = 7.38; 73.3% female) who screened positive for PTSD and anxiety and were randomly assigned to either a 3-week resistance exercise intervention or a time-matched contact control condition. The results suggest the intervention was feasible, with 80.0% (n = 24) of participants completing the study, 88.9% of the resistance exercise sessions attended, and no adverse effects reported. Additionally, resistance exercise had large beneficial effects on symptoms of avoidance, d = 1.26, 95% CI [0.39, 2.14]; and hyperarousal, d = 0.90, 95% CI [0.06, 1.74], relative to the control condition. Resistance exercise also produced large improvements concerning sleep quality, d = 1.31, 95% CI [0.41, 2.21], and hazardous alcohol use, d = 0.99, 95% CI [0.13, 1.86], compared to the control condition. Overall, the findings suggest that 3 weeks of high-intensity resistance exercise is a feasible intervention for PTSS reduction in non-treatment-seeking adults who screen positive for PTSD and anxiety; additional research is needed to verify these preliminary findings.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / prevention & control
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pilot Projects
  • Resistance Training*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / therapy
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy*