The physical wellbeing of people with mental health conditions can often be overlooked in order to treat the primary mental health condition as a priority. Exercise however, can potentially improve both the primary psychiatric condition as well as physical measures that indicate risk of other conditions such as diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease. Evidence supports the role of exercise as an important component of treatment for depression and anxiety, yet no randomised controlled trials (RCT's) have been conducted to evaluate the use of exercise in the treatment of people with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
This RCT will investigate the effects of structured, progressive exercise on PTSD symptoms, functional ability, body composition, physical activity levels, sleep patterns and medication usage.
Methods and design
Eighty participants with a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) diagnosis of PTSD will be recruited. Participants will have no contraindications to exercise and will be cognitively able to provide consent to participate in the study.
The primary outcome measures will be PTSD symptoms, measured through the PTSD Checklist Civilian (PCL-C) scale. Secondary outcome measures will assess depression and anxiety, mobility and strength, body composition, physical activity levels, sleep patterns and medication usage. All outcomes will be assessed by a health or exercise professional masked to group allocation at baseline and 12 weeks after randomisation.
The intervention will be a 12 week individualised program, primarily involving resistance exercises with the use of exercise bands. A walking component will also be incorporated. Participants will complete one supervised session per week, and will be asked to perform at least two other non-supervised exercise sessions per week. Both intervention and control groups will receive all usual non-exercise interventions including psychotherapy, pharmaceutical interventions and group therapy.
This study will determine the effect of an individualised and progressive exercise intervention on PTSD symptoms, depression and anxiety, mobility and strength, body composition, physical activity levels, sleep patterns and medication usage among people with a DSM-IV diagnosis of PTSD.