Exercise as a Form of Therapy

We all know exercise is an important part of our daily routine. While many use it as a way to stay fit and healthy, some also use it as an outlet for trauma, specifically PTSD. Our nervous systems are incredibly delicate, so when we experience trauma, it can throw off the whole body. This triggers anxiety, depression, panic, sleep disorders and many more symptoms. The Trauma Institute and Child Trauma Institute explain how different movement techniques help people gain confidence and overcome their trauma (Lederman & Greenwald, 2023). In addition to different movement techniques overcoming trauma barriers, running and walking even 30 minutes a day can lower stress levels and improve quality of life (Lederman & Greenwald, 2023). Other types of healing exercise include yoga, where not only is the person exercising but they are also practicing mindfulness and self-control (Rousseau, 2023). Group exercise can also help people overcome trauma. Van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score explores this citing “…the third group engaged in a routine exercise program…after three months the participants reported that they felt happier and healthier” (2014). 

Of course, there is a line that needs to be drawn in order for the exercise to not become an addiction. This can often happen to victims of trauma, where they supplement feeling depressed or anxious for exercise (Van der Kolk, 2014). Numbing, as it is often referred to, can have a negative impact on mental health just as much as suffering from trauma. Victims have reported emotional restrictions after a traumatic event, thus needing to supplement with the sort of happiness that exercise can give (Litz & Gray, 2002). Being able to identify when the exercise addiction is causing the victim to become emotionally numb is key to overcoming PTSD. This is why regulation and speaking with a mental health professional is important for the patient. 

Many forms of exercise have helped victims work through trauma. It is a great self-care technique and when done in groups, can lead to an emotional release and/or relationship building. 



Lederman, I., Greenwald, R. 2023. Exercise to support trauma healing. Trauma Institute & Child Trauma Institute. https://www.ticti.org/exercise/

Litz, B. T., & Gray, M. J. (2002). Emotional numbing in posttraumatic stress disorder: current and future research directions. The Australian and New Zealand journal of psychiatry, 36(2), 198–204. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1440-1614.2002.01002.x

M.D., B.V.D. K. (2014). The Body Keeps the Score. Penguin US. https://bookshelf.vitalsource.com/books/9781101608302

Rousseau, D. 2023. Module 2– Childhood trauma. Boston University. https://learn.bu.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-12438218-dt-content-rid-91015208_1/courses/23fallmetcj720_o2/course/module2/allpages.htm

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  1. Physical exercise is a great outlet to release stress, challenge our mind and bodies and live an overall healthy lifestyle. Though I can not attest first-hand that exercise is beneficial for PTSD, I can attest that exercise is helpful in reducing anxiety and stress. Personally, when I am feeling overwhelmed I go the gym to clear my mind and focus on myself. It is an effective strategy for me and truly a great form of self-therapy.

  2. I think that doing exercise can be definitely a great practice to unwind. What I loved about this blog post is that exercising in groups may be a good helper. I could not agree more with this statement. I think this develops the sense of community since a traumatised person would like to feel support, meaning he / she is not alone and can relate to peers. This is why when I watched the documentary about implementing Yoga Practice in Haiti among females victims (Rousseau, 2023), I was astonished how women were able to achieve brilliant results together. Thus, I think collective actions tend to bind people together so that they feel that they are committed to the same matter, while developing the key sense of belonging to a group.

  3. Physical exercise as an outlet to release stress is a great option, whether it’s outside running or doing something like yoga, it’s a great tool to release stress. It keeps our body and mind active and it allows us to live a healthy lifestyle. I can’t state if exercise is beneficial for PTSD first-hand but I think it could be a potential approach to growing through the trauma at your own pace. I enjoy physical exercise when I am anxious or stress because it gives me something to focus on and I can do it at my pace and on my own time,

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