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. 2020 Feb 13;10(2):59.
doi: 10.3390/bs10020059.

Acute Physiological Responses Following a Bout of Vigorous Exercise in Military Soldiers and First Responders With PTSD: An Exploratory Pilot Study

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Free PMC article

Acute Physiological Responses Following a Bout of Vigorous Exercise in Military Soldiers and First Responders With PTSD: An Exploratory Pilot Study

Kathryn E Speer et al. Behav Sci (Basel). .
Free PMC article

Abstract

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a prevalent and debilitating condition associated with psychological conditions and chronic diseases that may be underpinned by dysfunction in the autonomic nervous system (ANS), the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and chronic systemic low-grade inflammation. The objective of this pilot study was to determine psychological, ANS [heart rate variability (HRV)], HPA (salivary cortisol) and inflammatory (salivary C-Reactive Protein) responses to a bout of vigorous exercise in male first responders, military veterans and active duty personnel with (n = 4) and without (n = 4) PTSD. Participants (50.1 ± 14.8 years) performed a thirteen-minute, vigorous intensity (70%-80% of heart rate max), one-on-one boxing session with a certified coach. Physiological and psychological parameters were measured before, during, immediately after to 30 min post-exercise, and then at 24 h and 48 h post. The effect sizes demonstrated large to very large reductions in HRV that lasted up to 48 h post-exercise in the PTSD group compared with unclear effects in the trauma-exposed control (TEC) group. There were unclear effects for depression, anxiety and stress as well as salivary biomarkers for both groups at all time-points. Findings may reflect stress-induced changes to the ANS for PTSD sufferers.

Keywords: C-reactive protein or CRP; autonomic nervous system or ANS; chronic disease; cortisol; exercise; heart rate variability or HRV; hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis; inflammation; post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
Study Timeline. Note: DASS: Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale; CRP: C-reactive protein; HRV: heart rate variability, VO2max: maximum oxygen consumption: IPE: immediately post exercise.
Figure 2
Figure 2
(ad): Measured HRV parameter values immediately prior to and following the exercise protocol. Note: PTSD: post-traumatic stress disorder; TEC: trauma-exposed controls; LnLF: natural log of low frequency power; LnHF: natural log of high frequency power, LnLF/HF: natural log of low frequency power to high frequency power ratio; LnRMSSD: natural log of the square root of mean squared differences of successive R-R intervals (* denotes significance p ≤ 0.05).
Figure 3
Figure 3
(a) Salivary CRP values immediately prior to and following the exercise protocol. Note: PTSD: post-traumatic stress disorder; TEC: trauma-exposed controls; CRP: c-reactive protein; IPE: immediately post exercise. (b) Salivary cortisol values immediately prior to and following the exercise protocol. Note: PTSD: post-traumatic stress disorder; TEC: trauma-exposed controls; IPE: immediately post exercise.
Figure 3
Figure 3
(a) Salivary CRP values immediately prior to and following the exercise protocol. Note: PTSD: post-traumatic stress disorder; TEC: trauma-exposed controls; CRP: c-reactive protein; IPE: immediately post exercise. (b) Salivary cortisol values immediately prior to and following the exercise protocol. Note: PTSD: post-traumatic stress disorder; TEC: trauma-exposed controls; IPE: immediately post exercise.

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