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Clinical Notes 5: Mental Health & Exercise For Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

We all have some level of stress, right?

It may be temporary (acute), or long-term (chronic).

Acute stress usually won’t mess with your health too much. It is your body’s natural reaction to circumstances, and can even be life-saving. Then, when the “threat” (a.k.a. “stressor”) is gone, the reaction subsides, and all is well.

It’s the chronic stress, and in this particular blog post, post-traumatic stress disoder (PTSD) that can become more problematic. You see, your body has specific stress reactions. If these stress reactions are triggered every day or many times a day that can mess with your health as stress (and stress hormones) can have a huge impact on your health and even more so where there is exposure to a potentially life-threatening or traumatic event and the potential of post-traumatic stress (PTSD).

 

Today, I want to dive into the 3  What’s of PTSD and a How of PTSD.

 

What #1: What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Just a quick science-like part of this blog post. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may occur after exposure to potentially life-threatening or a traumatic event. Being a survivor of those types of events may cause elevated levels of continual stress (the chronic stress) that can have negative effects on the body: mental health, PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, exercise, the other pain clinic

  • overwhelming sense of guilt, creating negative thought patterns
  • potential replaying the traumatic scene in the mind
  • the body being on high alert a lot of the time, so being in a continuous state of “fight or flight” … basically a ramped-up nervous system
  • having a hard time to feel or be at rest

 

How: How Many People Does PTSD Affect?

Going with the statistics from where I live, the Canadian Psychological Association estimates almost 75% of Canadians having experienced a traumatic event in their lifetime, with about 10% likely to develop PTSD. So, a safe assumption is traumatic events, are unfortunately a common occurrence 🙁

There are some sub-groups of the population that are exposed to trauma events on a more frequent basis:

  • Military & Military Combat Veterans
  • First Responders (Police, Ambulance, Fire)
  • Hospital (ER, Pallative)

Aside from these sub-groups, another important and significant finding is the linkage between health conditions strongly associated to PTSD.

What #2: What Comorbidities Do Those With PTSD Face?

mental health, PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, exercise, the other pain clinic

Having a comorbidity refers to having the simultaneous presence of 2 chronic health conditions in one person; whereby it may be a variety between physical and/or mental  conditions.

By having the continual stress associated with PTSD, it may affect how the body works, which can lead to secondary (chronic) health conditions such as …

  • Hypertension
  • Cardiovascular conditions
  • Musculoskeletal aches & pains
  • A weakened immune function
  • Depression
  • Obesity
  • Increase risk of diabetes

There can also be some changes in lifestyle behaviours such as …

  • Development of greater sedentary behaviour
  • Inconsistent nutrition habits
  • Less effective sleep habits
  • Increase in substance usage

The change in the lifestyle behaviours may make the recovery process longer and potentially make the PTSD-related symptoms worse.

 

What #3: What Can Exercise Do?

Research has been building up to support the role of being involved in exercise as part of the health care plan (treatment) for those individuals with PTSD and the benefits it provides in reducing the symptoms and managing the secondary chronic health conditions that are associated with PTSD.

Studies have show moderate to high intensity aerobic exercise (60% to 80% of age-predicted heart rate range) can help to reduce depression and anxiety related to PTSD symptom severity, while being an easily accessible form of therapy, with minimal adverse side effects.

When aerobic exercise is combined with resistance training, it gives some additional benefits.

Clinical Notes 5 Summary

So, what now?

In retrospect, it all starts with how we view mental health. We do make steps and give very good effort to take care of our physical health when something happens to our body. Yet there is a delay when it comes to getting stepping forward to take care of our mental health. This needs to be balanced, as our physical health is clearly not separate from our mental health.

Without mental health, there can be no true physical health

– B. Chisholm, WHO, 1954

Exercise is important for both our mental as well as physical health.

My take home message for yourself or someone that you know that may have PTSD …

  • Exercise is an effective component of therapy for mental health conditions like PTSD and it can help to manage symptoms and reduce the risk of secondary chronic health conditions
  • Exercise programs are to be individualized, as everyone’s experience level in the exercise world is different as is they unique experience of PTSD. As a program is individualized this helps in adherence and engagement in the program with frequent follow-up.
  • Mental health and physical health work together – the are both needed and cannot have one without the other

The Health & Wellness Vision I have towards helping out …

mental health, PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, exercise, the other pain clinic

Follow this blog post and The Other Pain Clinic Inc™  for its upcoming free

Mental Health 10 Step Challenge: First Steps To Self-Care Through Lifestyle Habits©

(pass this information along to someone you may know … )

 

Make your day an amazing day,

Francois

Founder & Chief Medical Exercise Specialist

 

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