Fitness and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

by Cindy Zeis
The topic of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) crossed my path again today and is a topic I am well acquainted with. In fact, the specific topic is about how fitness helps alleviate the symptoms of PTSD. As a fitness trainer I could reach in to my articles base for some interesting information on how our body responds to exercise and how proper nutrition plays a role and all that but I think the perspective I am driven to write from is just my own, personal experience. There is certainly enough information to be found on the scientific studies of PTSD, I do not feel a need to write another.
Without going in to the details of how I developed PTSD I will just say that I was not diagnosed professionally until I was in my 30’s even though my battle with it started years before that. Of course, this may have been found earlier if I hadn’t taken the path of self-medication which manifested in many ways.
It is amazing how one can struggle so much even after realizing the need for help. The real battle only began once I realized the need and sought professional treatment. There were many medications prescribed and countless hours of therapy neither of which I wish to discount for its relevance at the time. For the long term, however, there were changes that needed to be made that lie far beyond the pharmacy counter.
PTSD is described as a biopsychosocial disorder brought on through some form of traumatic victimization. This is an incredible oversimplification of the issue so forgive me for not delving deeper in to the scientific aspects of this disorder. Two common factors stated in many reports on PTSD include the elements of disempowerment and loss of control. If these are the factors that lead to the distress then it stands to reason that if we work toward self-empowerment and self-control we stand a good chance to develop a sustainable, healthy lifestyle.
For myself, I know without a doubt that my journey back to leading a fit and healthy lifestyle through incorporating exercise and practicing the best nutritional plan I can (notice I’m not saying perfect adherence to the plan) has led to me back to health both physically and psychologically. When you feel strong, and healthy you walk a little taller and self-confidence grows exponentially. The nurturing aspect of feeding ourselves good foods and treating our bodies with respect lends itself to re-connecting with the feeling of being in control. These, coupled with the physiological effects of a sound fitness plan are an irrefutable means to overcoming the symptoms of PTSD.
Does this mean there is never any recurrence of symptoms? No, I’m not saying that but I can report that it is now a rare occasion and the symptoms are less intense and much shorter in duration than what I’ve experienced in the past. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I had any symptoms at all.
Again, I will not discount the power of an effective therapeutic and sometimes needed medication regimen but add in a prescription for physical activity and some nutrient rich foods and I can say beyond a shadow of doubt that person will stand a much better chance of experiencing recovery.
This information is based solely on my personal experience. It is not medical advice and not even the advice of a fitness professional. It is just my own experience and knowing of what has worked for me.
Be gentle with yourself on your journey to wellness no matter who you are or what you are dealing with. I wish you well and hope to read your stories of success too!

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