Physical activity in the treatment of Post-traumatic stress disorder

People with PTSD experience high levels of cardiovascular disease and comorbid mental health problems. Physical activity (PA) is an effective intervention in the general population.

In this study, the authors conducted the first systematic review and meta-analysis to determine the effect of PA on PTSD.  The authors searched major electronic databases from inception till 03/2015 for RCTs of PA interventions among people with PTSD. A random effects meta-analysis calculating hedges g was conducted. From a potential of 812 hits, four unique RCTs met the inclusion criteria. The methodological quality of included trials was satisfactory, and no major adverse events were reported.

The study found that PA was significantly more effective compared to control conditions at decreasing PTSD and depressive symptoms among people with PTSD. There was insufficient data to investigate the effect on anthropometric or cardiometabolic outcomes.

Results suggested that PA may be a useful adjunct to usual care to improve the health of people with PTSD. Although there is a relative paucity of data, there is reason to be optimistic for including PA as an intervention for people with PTSD, particularly given the overwhelming evidence of the benefits of PA in the general population. Robust effectiveness and implementation studies are required.