“In the Sport I Am Here”: Therapeutic Processes and Health Effects of Sport and Exercise on PTSD

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Abstract

Current evidence suggests positive effects of exercise on posttraumatic stress symptoms; however, knowledge about how these effects are achieved is limited. Thus, this study aims to contribute to a more holistic understanding of these effects. We performed a single case study of a war and torture survivor, who was diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, and who was participant of the sport and exercise therapy program Movi Kune. Participant observation was conducted as well as semi-structured interviews with the participant and his psychotherapist. Data analysis resulted in the proposal of different processes: The focus on bodily sensations related to an exposure effect, contributing to improvements in body awareness, coping behavior, and affect regulation, whereas the focus on playing related to an improved performance, presence, enjoyment, and mastery experiences, pointing toward distraction and motivational-restorative effects. The findings also advice to be cautious as participants may be exposed to negative sensations and trauma-related triggers.

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