Exercise augmentation compared with usual care for post-traumatic stress disorder: a randomized controlled trial

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To investigate the impact of a 12-week exercise programme in addition to usual care for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


An assessor-blinded randomized controlled trial was conducted among 81 participants with a DSM-IV-TR diagnosis of primary PTSD. Participants were recruited after admission to an in-patient programme at a private hospital. Participants were randomized to receive either usual care (n = 42), or exercise in addition to usual care (n = 39). The exercise intervention involved three, 30-min resistance-training sessions/week and a pedometer-based walking programme. Usual care involved psychotherapy, pharmaceutical interventions, and group therapy. Primary outcome was PTSD symptoms assessed via the PTSD checklist–civilian version (PCL-C). Secondary outcomes included symptoms of depression, anthropometry, physical activity, mobility, strength, and sleep quality.


Participants had a mean (SD) age of 47.8 years (12.1), 84% male. PTSD symptoms in the intervention group significantly reduced compared with the usual care group (mean difference = −5.4, 95% CI −10.5 to −0.3, P = 0.04, n = 58). There were significant between-group differences at follow-up for depressive symptoms, waist circumference, sleep quality, and sedentary time.


This study provides the first evidence that an exercise intervention is associated with reduced PTSD and depressive symptoms, reduced waist circumference, and improved sleep quality.

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