Friday, August 27, 2021

Ways Exercise and Meditation Can Help With PTSD

Exercise and meditation are among the most helpful ways to maintain good mental and physical health. Most doctors advise them to manage depression, anxiety, and other psychological disorders. Today, we will explore how exercise and meditation can be helpful for people who have Post-traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD).

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

PTSD is a condition where it becomes impossible for a person to cope with and manage the uncomfortable memories of an event. It can be defined as a psychological disorder that results from an extremely violent, painful, or disturbing experience. Examples include being subjected to sexual assault, physical assault, war, natural disaster, or the loss of a loved one.

The condition was first noticed in World War I veterans and was given the name ‘shell shock.’ The names ‘battle fatigue’ and ‘operational exhaustion’ were then used before the condition was given the name PTSD.

The symptoms of PTSD can be divided as follows:

1. Intrusion

Intrusive thoughts, involuntary memories, and disturbing dreams of the trauma are the main signs of this disorder. These can sometimes be so lucid that the patient can feel like they are re-living the memory.

2. Avoidance

The patient tries to avoid places, people, objects, memories, and situations that might remind them of the trauma.

3. Alteration in Cognition and Mood

Distorted thoughts about the reason or result of the trauma are also major symptoms of the disorder. The patients tend to blame themselves or others for the trauma without a rational analysis of what happened.

4. Alteration in Arousal and Activity

The patient can get reactive and aroused with an irritable mood and frequent outbursts of anger. It can lead them to harm themselves or anyone else that they consider responsible for their trauma in their version of reality.

The treatments for PTSD are still being researched. Some of the most effective treatments for the condition include psychological and cognitive behavioral therapy, drugs like sertraline and paroxetine, and exercise and medication. Let us now explore the effectiveness of exercise and meditation in treating this condition.

Effectiveness of Exercise and Meditation in Treating PTSD

According to StuffThatWorks, a crowdsourced platform specializing in treatment effectiveness analysis, exercise and meditation are among the most effective treatments of PTSD. Out of all the patients who tried exercise as a treatment for PTSD, it worked to varying degrees in 89% of the cases. Likewise, to different degrees, meditation proved to be effective in 89% of the people who tried it as a treatment.

Several other studies have concluded that exercise and meditation can help manage disorders like anxiety, depression, and PTSD. A notable piece of research in this respect is a 2018 peer-reviewed chapter by Robert Motta titled, “The Role of Exercise in Reducing PTSD and Negative Emotional States, Psychology of Health - Biopsychosocial Approach,” where it was established that exercise can be significantly beneficial in reducing adult emotional disorders including PTSD.

The key findings of the chapter are that PTSD patients who performed strenuous physical exercise had better sleep, a reduced tendency of substance abuse, lesser physical and emotional pain, and an overall improvement in the symptoms of the condition, as compared to the ones who were not physically active.

Let us now see how patients who have PTSD can use exercise and meditation to manage their condition.

How to Use Exercise and Meditation for Managing PTSD

Different types of exercise and meditation can be prescribed to PTSD patients. The ones that are most commonly used are:


The aim is to involve the patient in an exercise that gives them a sense of joy. It can be anything from regular morning walks to training in the gym and from jogging to riding a bike.

The best results are obtained from 12-week sessions of daily 30-minute resistance training. However, the actual exercise depends on the mental and physical state of the patient and differs from case to case.


According to research conducted so far, meditation is more helpful than exercise. The following types of meditation are used to improve the condition of patients suffering from the condition.

1. Compassion Meditation

This meditation focuses on the repetition of phrases that emphasize increasing compassion and empathy towards others. According to an article published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, Compassion Meditation for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Veterans: A Randomized Proof of Concept Study, the effects of 90-minute weekly compassion meditation on veterans suffering from PTSD was better than that of a program consisting of psychoeducation, relaxation training and sleep hygiene.

2. Transcendental Meditation

In this kind of meditation, the patient is required to repeat a word or phrase silently in their mind. The goal is to create a sense of relaxation and peace. The evidence of the effectiveness of this kind of meditation can be seen in the study, “The Transcendental Meditation Program’s Impact on the Symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder of Veterans: An Uncontrolled Pilot Study,” published in the Journal of Military Medicine. It established that transcendental meditation helped reduce PTSD symptoms in veterans.

3. Mantra Meditation

This meditation consists of repeating a mantra for a said number of times or a set duration. According to a study titled “Individual Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Using Mantra Repetition: A Randomized Clinical Trial,” mantra meditation is more effective in treating PTSD than present-centered therapy.

4. Mindfulness Meditation

This meditation requires the performer to be mindful and present at the moment. The focus here is to let the thoughts come and go without reaction or judgment. The evidence of this meditation being useful in treating PTSD can be found in the study, “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Among Veterans.” This study points out that mindfulness meditation has a mild effect on PTSD symptoms that can be even more helpful if combined with present-centered group therapy.  

In Conclusion 

Post-traumatic stress disorder results from a traumatic happening or experience. It makes it difficult or even impossible for the sufferer to cope with the memories and other reminders associated with the trauma. Out of all the treatments that are being used for the condition, exercise and meditation can be effective, as is established by much research evidence.

This is a guest blog entry.

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