The effects of high intensity interval training on PTSD symptomology




Bryan, Jacob

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The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of high intensity interval training (HIIT) on post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and to compare the results of HIIT to a short, deep breathing session (BRTH) that is commonly used to manage PTSD symptoms. Previous research has demonstrated a positive effect of exercise on PTSD and related mental health concerns. Seven volunteers (six females and one male) participated in this study. All participants completed two groups of sessions, one comprised of three HIIT sessions and one of three BRTH sessions. Each group of sessions took place over approximately ten days, with a 4-week washout period between the two protocols. The HIIT sessions each involved eight sets of a work rest ratio of 20-second exercise to 10-second rest, with a 60-second break between the fourth and the fifth set for a total of 5 minutes. The BRTH sessions involved the use of an established 5-minute deep breathing PTSD therapy protocol. PTSD symptoms were measured using the PTSD Checklist (PCL). PCL measures were taken before (pre-test) and after (post-test) the intervention. Within the HIIT intervention, mean post-test Total PCL scores were significantly reduced compared to pre-test scores (p < 0.005), while BRTH scores did not significantly change. Two subscales in the PCL, Intrusion and Avoidance were also significantly reduced (p < 0.0005) following HIIT but not BRTH. All other subscales scores were lower following both HIIT and BRTH, though were not statistically significant different from pre-test values. No statistical between-intervention differences were detected. The preliminary results from this research provide evidence that acute use of HIIT exercise provides similar or better positive effects on PTSD symptoms as BRTH and that HIIT exercise can be used as a symptom management tool for PTSD.



Exercise, HIIT, PTSD