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Cogn Behav Ther. 2015;44(4):301-13. doi: 10.1080/16506073.2014.916745. Epub 2014 Jun 9.

Aerobic Exercise Reduces Symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial.

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a Department of Psychology , University of Regina , Regina , Canada.


Evidence suggests aerobic exercise has anxiolytic effects; yet, the treatment potential for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and responsible anxiolytic mechanisms have received little attention. Emerging evidence indicates that attentional focus during exercise may dictate the extent of therapeutic benefit. Whether benefits are a function of attentional focus toward or away from somatic arousal during exercise remains untested. Thirty-three PTSD-affected participants completed two weeks of stationary biking aerobic exercise (six sessions). To assess the effect of attentional focus, participants were randomized into three exercise groups: group 1 (attention to somatic arousal) received prompts directing their attention to the interoceptive effects of exercise, group 2 (distraction from somatic arousal) watched a nature documentary, and group 3 exercised with no distractions or interoceptive prompts. Hierarchal linear modeling showed all groups reported reduced PTSD and anxiety sensitivity (AS; i.e., fear of arousal-related somatic sensations) during treatment. Interaction effects between group and time were found for PTSD hyperarousal and AS physical and social scores, wherein group 1, receiving interoceptive prompts, experienced significantly less symptom reduction than other groups. Most participants (89%) reported clinically significant reductions in PTSD severity after the two-week intervention. Findings suggest, regardless of attentional focus, aerobic exercise reduces PTSD symptoms.


aerobic exercise; anxiety sensitivity; depression; posttraumatic stress disorder; treatment

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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