As a fitness professional who works primarily with women, I understand the sense of helplessness, depression and other symptoms that can linger and hold you back from achieving your optimal health and well-being. April is sexual assault awareness month and I’d like to talk a little more about how exercise can help in the healing process.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder triggered by witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. Although it is commonly associated with combat veterans, it also frequently affects survivors of violent personal assaults (rape, mugging or domestic violence), childhood abuse, natural disasters, accidents and life-threatening illnesses.
Exercise can play an important role in helping clients with PTSD or who experienced a trauma recover and regain confidence. Exercise also addresses many of the health problems commonly associated with chronic PTSD, including cardiovascular disease and depression or other bodily manifestations of the emotional after-effects of trauma.
Mind-body exercises like yoga, low-intensity aerobic exercise, in addition to the sense of accomplishment provided by feeling stronger through resistance exercise are valuable components of a comprehensive treatment plan.(Tsatsoulis & Fountoulakis 2006)(Cohen & Shamus 2009)(Cohen & Shamus 2009).
Diaphragmatic breathing, muscle relaxation exercises and stretching are an essential component of all my training programs. Abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing has been shown to improve immune function, hypertension, asthma, autonomic nervous system imbalances and psychological or stress-related disorders (Jerath et al. 2006).
Symptoms of PTSD can vary from day to day and may be triggered by seemingly innocuous situations, such as loud noises or crowds. The bootcamp drill sergeant approach may really trigger someone for whom being pushed or yelled at was part of their traumatic experience. This is another reason why I think touching a client without asking permission or standing too close to a client in general is inappropriate.
Sufferers of trauma often need a sense of control which they lack in other aspects of their lives. There is a risk these clients could develop unhealthy or unsafe approaches to exercise. It is my job to show my clients how to make sure that exercise does not become an excessive behavior.
I would welcome the opportunity to assist you in your journey to wellness, wholeness, health, fitness and peace.