Posted on March 03 2020
Using fitness to recover from PTSD as a Veteran or Service member
Are you feeling depressed or struggling to adjust to life out of the military? Unfortunately, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects up to 30% of military veterans and service members. Its symptoms can linger for an awful long time, something that I know far too well as a veteran who experienced PTSD firsthand.
It is easy to feel disconnected, sensitive, negative and even suicidal. But we can’t let it take over our life.
“Without mental health, there can be no true physical health.” - Dr Brock Chisholm, Former Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO)
As warriors who fought for the freedom and rights in this country, we need something that can improve both mental and physical health - Fitness.
Benefits of fitness Exercise has many proven benefits for PTSD and depression. A clinical trial of former soldiers and police officers showed that patients who received exercise treatment had better recovery from PTSD than those receiving usual care. Similarly, the Warrior Wellness Study showed many benefits of
using fitness to treat PTSD in veterans, including:
- Boost mood
- Improve cognitive abilities
- Improve sleep quality
- Increase energy levels
- Promote weight loss
- Better endurance
- Stronger heart functions
- Overall health and happiness
How does exercise help?
Change your hormones!
Exercise can release endorphins – the happy hormones that can improve your mood. At the same time, it decreases the levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol.
If you choose outdoor exercises such as rock climbing and running, you can enjoy the beautiful nature and its healing power. For example, surfing in nature gives veterans “a fully embodied feeling of release from suffering”.
If you choose indoor exercises such as weightlifting, you can feel the joy and bursts of endorphin release when you hit a new record.
One symptom of PTSD is getting recurrent reminders of traumatic events that you wish you could forget. You may be stuck with these flashbacks and live the stress again and again.
By focusing on your body and movement during exercise, you can be distracted from these memories and get “unstuck”.
For example, powerlifting requires you to be highly concentrated and engage all your muscles. It shifts your focus on negative thoughts in the past to fully embracing the present.
It is how I recovered from PTSD, and I hope that you can choose the Life Of A Warrior too!