Self-reported exercise frequency and PTSD: results from the National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study

T. G. Adams, J. Forte, B. M. Fogle, S. M. Southwick, R. H. Pietrzak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: Physical exercise may serve as a protective factor for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but little is known about whether physical exercise is associated with PTSD in population-based samples of military veterans. Methods: We analyzed cross-sectional data on the relation between self-reported physical exercise frequency and the prevalence of probable PTSD in a nationally representative sample of 2832 U.S. military veterans who participated in the National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study. Results: A “U-shaped” association best explained the relation between self-reported exercise frequency and the prevalence of probable PTSD. Compared to veterans without probable PTSD, those with probable PTSD were nearly twice as likely to report no weekly exercise (52.3% vs. 29.3%) or daily (7 days/week) exercise (15.2% vs. 8.5%) and were nearly half as likely to report exercising a median of 3.5 days/week (32.6% vs. 62.1%). No exercise was associated with greater severity of emotional numbing and lower severity of anxious arousal symptoms, while daily exercise was associated with greater severity of re-experiencing symptoms. Conclusions: Results of this study suggest a “U-shaped” association between self-reported exercise frequency and the prevalence of probable PTSD among U.S. veterans. Veterans with probable PTSD were more likely than those without probable PTSD to report not exercising at all or exercising every day and were less likely to report exercising 1–6 days per week. Clinical implications of these findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)486-495
Number of pages10
JournalActa Psychiatrica Scandinavica
Volume142
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study (NHRVS) is supported by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (NCPTSD). Dr. Adams was supported by the NIMH during the preparation of this manuscript (K23MH111977). Dr. Adams, Southwick, and Pietrzak were supported by the Clinical Neurosciences Division of the NCPTSD. Ms. Forte and Ms. Fogle have no funding to disclose.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 John Wiley & Sons A/S. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd

Keywords

  • exercise
  • military veterans
  • posttraumatic stress disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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