A significant U-shaped association between physical activity level and posttraumatic stress disorder in U.S. military Veterans: Results from the 2019–2020 National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study

Thomas G. Adams, Emily Fenlon, Christopher Penn, Troy Hubert, Robert H. Pietrzak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: The present study sought to extend previous research by examining associations between physical activity levels, PTSD, and PTSD symptom clusters in a large, independent, nationally representative sample of U.S. military veterans. Methods: Using data from the 2019–2020 National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study (NHRVS), we examined relations between a comprehensive self-report measure of physical activity that reflects public health guidelines and a self-report measure of DSM-5-defined PTSD and a 7-factor model of PTSD symptom dimensions. A total of 3,875 participants completed all study measures. Post-stratification weights were applied to all analyses (weighted n = 3,732). Results: Quadratic logistic regression revealed a significant (p <.05) U-shaped association between physical activity levels (insufficient, moderate, and active) and a positive PTSD screen. A moderate activity level was associated with the lowest likelihood of PTSD (3.8% adjusted probability) while an active level was associated with the highest likelihood of PTSD (7.8% adjusted probability). Multinomial logistic regression suggested that more severe posttraumatic intrusive symptoms, particularly nightmares, and anhedonic symptoms were associated with a significantly decreased probability of a moderate activity level (ps ≤.05, false discovery rate corrected). Conclusions: Findings suggest that a moderate physical activity level is associated with a lower likelihood of PTSD but that specific PTSD symptoms may be differentially associated with exercise behaviors. Candidate mechanisms and clinical implications of these findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100460
JournalMental Health and Physical Activity
Volume23
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Thomas Adams reports a relationship with National Institute of Mental Health that include: funding grants that include K23MH111977 and L30MH111037. Robb Pietrzak reports a relationship with US Department of Veterans Affairs that include: funding grants from the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd

Keywords

  • Exercise
  • Military veterans
  • PTSD
  • Physical activity
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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