10 Minutes of Aerobic Exercise with Exposure Therapy Reduces PTSD Symptoms: Study

Portrait of elderly smiling european woman and people dancing in modern studioNew research led by UNSW Sydney psychologists suggests that exposure therapy and aerobic exercise may help reduce post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. It is common for people with PTSD to be encouraged to try exposure therapy, but up to half of the patients don’t respond to it.

This lack of response from patients to exposure therapy led the researchers to conduct the first known single-blind randomized control trial of its kind. The study analyzed 130 adults with clinically diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and assigned them to two groups. Both groups received nine 90-minute exposure therapy sessions. However, one group was also put through 10 minutes of aerobic exercise after each therapy session, and the other group was given 10 minutes of passive stretching.


On average, people in the aerobic exercise group reported lower severity of PTSD symptoms compared to those who followed stretching exercises after a six-month follow-up. Researchers noted that after one week, there were no differences between the two groups, suggesting the benefits of aerobic exercise take time to develop.

These results offer a promising addition to exposure therapy that may raise the success rate and help many people who are suffering from an anxiety disorder such as PTSD. However, this is the first time the benefits of aerobic exercise and exposure therapy have been observed in a clinical setting, so researchers are quick to caution that more studies are needed before it can become standard practice.

“I’d really like to emphasize that this is the first trial that’s shown this in an anxiety disorder, and I don’t think we should get too excited by it,” said lead researcher Richard Bryant.

“But as with all of these things, you always need multiple trials to actually have any faith in it. So I’m certainly not telling people to run out and start doing exercise after all your exposure therapy, because I think it’s premature after one trial. But having said that, this is very encouraging.”


Researchers believe the exercise helps promote a particular brain growth molecule called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, or BDNF. This actually promotes synaptic plasticity in the brain, which is vital for learning. So, if more BDNF is active in the brain at the time of exposure therapy, theoretically, it should lead to better results.

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Author Bio

Sarah began her interest in nutritional healing at an early age. After going through health problems and becoming frustrated with the conventional ways doctors wanted to treat her illness (which were not working), she took it upon herself to find alternative treatments. This led her to revolutionize her own diet to help her get healthier and tackle her health problems. She began treating her illness by living a more balanced lifestyle through healthy food choices, exercise and other alternative medicine such as meditation. This total positive lifestyle change led her to earn a diploma in Nutritional Therapy from Health Sciences Academy in London, England. Today, Sarah enjoys helping others by teaching healthy lifestyle changes through her personal consultations and with her regular contributions to the Doctors Health Press. Also, passionate about following her dreams in life, Sarah moved to France and lived in Paris for over 5 years where she earned a certification in beadwork and embroidery from Lesage (an atelier owned by Chanel). She then went on to be a familiar face sitting front row and reporting from Paris Fashion Week. Sarah continues to practice some of the cultural ways of life she learned while in Europe. They enjoy their food, and take the time to relax and enjoy many of life’s little moments. These are life lessons she is glad to have brought back home with her.