VA researcher Dr. Daniel Reis studies lifestyle and mental health outcomes. In this episode, hosted by VA Psychologist Dr. Edgar Villarreal, they discuss exercise as an alternative treatment option for Veterans living with PTSD through the lens of both research and lived experience.
Army Veteran Adam Holt struggled with PTSD, substance use, homelessness and suicide attempts.
In the podcast below, Holt explains how his recovery journey literally led to “running from relapse. I’d go run on the Greenbelt when I had a craving, even if it was two in the morning. Eventually I started going to the gym.” Over time he noticed his PTSD symptoms were going away, “Almost as though life started having color back in it.”
Army Veteran Adam Holt
“It’s really hard to explain if you haven’t experienced it, but I found myself laughing more and crying more,” he says. “I found myself able to just experience emotions where I had almost turned those off for so many years. It really allowed me to experience life so that I could then show up and work through it.”
Exercise as alternative treatment option
Reis shares the findings of his article that reviewed research on the effects of exercise: Exercise to Reduce Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms in Veterans. Traditional therapies and treatments for PTSD work really well but may not work for everyone.
“We’re seeing a lot of interest in these complementary and alternative treatments, of which exercise is one,” says Reis. “It’s well known that exercise can have a host of benefits for physical health. And increasingly, we’re seeing research emerge that mental health is part of the same system and we can really get effects here.”
“Recovery through physical activity saved my life.”
Holt was inspired by his own recovery and a desire to help others. He recently founded Outsiders Anonymous, a 100% free gym for Veterans with PTSD located near Austin, Texas. “I really encourage people to incorporate physical activity into their recovery program as a complementary approach. It saved my life and I’m sure it can save yours.”
Short Takes on Suicide Prevention is a VA Podcast Network series produced by the VA Rocky Mountain Mental Illness Research Education and Clinical Center. Listen and subscribe to Short Takes on your favorite podcasting app.
If you or a Veteran in your life is in crisis, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat live, or Text 838255. Available 24/7.