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Ways Aerobic Exercise Can Help With PTSD

Ways Aerobic Exercise Can Help With PTSD

Learn how stress-reducing exercises are linked to reduced stress disorder symptoms.

After losing 29 marines in Iraq, infantryman Mike Ergo returned home to California with a severe case of PTSD. Featured in NBC’s coverage of the 2017 Ironman competition in Kona, Hawaii, Mike shared how he successfully deals with his stress disorder. “When I started running again, I felt good,” he says. “I think endurance sports [are] almost the perfect prescription for PTSD.”

We’re getting closer all the time to finding out why that is.

A lab study from Texas A&M University examined how neurons in the brain that cause feelings of fear to get stirred up again (that’s called a fear relapse) are activated by everyday stress—and how such stress also damps down brain areas that usually reduce fear. It’s a dastardly duo for sure, but one that finally provides a clearer explanation of how and why stress-relieving aerobic exercise helps control PTSD.

Although we’ve known for a long time that the prefrontal cortex regulates behavior, thought and emotion, this enhanced understanding can lead to more treatment options for PTSD—not just for soldiers, but for victims of various traumatic events, from car accidents to a cancer diagnosis.

In the meantime, anyone contending with PTSD (over 13 million Americans have the condition at any given time) should develop an aerobics regimen and use other emotion-soothing techniques such as meditation, acupuncture, massage therapy and even breathing deeply, to change their response to stressors. These work by causing your body to produce soothing endorphins. They’re a good complement to cortisol-dispelling aerobic exercise.

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