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Tips for Training Clients with PTSD



Tips for Training Clients with PTSD

Tips for Training Clients with PTSD

Carrie Myersby Carrie Myers

A few years ago, while training a client at the gym, there was a loud crash in the weight room after a member of the gym angrily yelled and berated the member for dropping a rack full of weight plates. November 11,

She was a combat veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and discovered that the loud crash was a traumatic trigger for her.

What is PTSD?

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), PTSD occurs after someone experiences a traumatic event, including combat, an accident, a terrorist attack, natural disasters, or a crime (including sexual offenses). People with PTSD may experience recurring flashbacks or nightmares and may also avoid activities or places that remind them of the event; They also experience emotional “numbness”. PTSD puts their nervous system on high alert (hyperarousal), always ready for fight or flight, making them more prone to panic attacks and having trouble sleeping and concentrating. Patients with PTSD may feel guilty to avoid trauma, while others may not.

Although PTSD has been around for ages, it has only been recognized as an official diagnosis since the 1980s, but PTSD is categorized into 20 symptoms with four groups: intrusion, active avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and arousal and… reactivity.

Robert Motta’s book Psychology of Health explains that people with PTSD avoid traditional treatment, not wanting to relive the experience with a therapist. Motta also explains how PTSD changes a person on all levels, including changes in a person’s sense of self as well as changes in their environment.

Exercise and PTSD

Because PTSD patients tend to avoid traditional treatments, it is important to find safe and effective alternative evidence-based treatments that can help move them toward recovery. Hundreds of studies have shown the benefits of exercise on anxiety and depression. Since both anxiety and depression are part of PTSD, it seems logical that exercise can also help relieve PTSD symptoms.


There seems to be a connection.

Motta cites several studies in support of PTSD, particularly aerobic exercise, in a chapter in Health Psychology called “The Role of Exercise in Reducing PTSD and Negative Emotional States.” One such study was a 2017 longitudinal study published in General Hospital Psychiatry that indicated that vigorous exercise had a beneficial effect on PTSD symptoms, avoidance/numbing and hyperarousal, and avoidance/numbing Holistic exercise also comes with positive benefits.

In a 2019 review in Frontiers in Psychiatry, researchers reviewed 19 studies examining aerobic exercise and PTSD symptoms and found that the evidence to date supports aerobic exercise as a stand-alone intervention or for PTSD support in the field as adjuncts to standard treatment.

But what about other types of exercise?

The 2022 review in Military Medicine found that the studies they reviewed found no significant differences between the different types of exercise in terms of their effect on PTSD symptoms. In other words, whether it was yoga, high-intensity or low-intensity activities, or group or individual activity, they all seemed to have a beneficial effect on PTSD symptoms.

Growth after an injury

As a health and fitness specialist, you play a unique role in the recovery process of patients with PTSD. According to a 2016 review in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, posttraumatic stress growth (PTG) refers to positive psychological changes that occur after an event.

An example of PTG is a parent who has lost a child. And instead of suffering with children for the rest of their lives, they started an organization to help other families. For those going through a similar situation, it’s about taking your pain and using it for good, including your own personal growth.


PTG also includes interest rate flexibility. According to Jason Linder, in an article for Side Psychology Today, you present interest, resilience, and tolerance for uncertainty. and self-knowledge/self-control.

Guidelines for helping clients with PTSD

Here are some tips for you as a health and fitness professional to get the most out of your session together. If a client is going through a PTSD episode, always stay within the scope of the practice.

US Air Force veteran Christian Koshaba, an ACE-certified personal trainer and owner of Three60 Fit, a veteran-focused gym, says it’s best not to categorize someone with PTSD as a victim. This is not a charity thing.”

In addition, Koshaba recommends the following:

Create an environment conducive to veterans’ emotional and mental health. Some veterans seek camaraderie and a collegial environment. While other veterans may be triggered by loud noises and gatherings, they want a quieter, more personal experience, Koshaba said.

Research more about PTSD and learn about possible triggers. “Build a relationship with the person and try not to be too aggressive with their wartime experiences. Some veterans are willing to talk openly about their injuries. But others don’t feel like talking about it with me.” Koshaba said he could.”


Find common ground. “What stories and experiences can you share to make them feel welcome and make them trust you and empathize with them?” Kochaba asked The Wounded Warrior Project, adding a caveat. On empathizing with your customers: “Know how I feel…” or “It’s like when I…” Everyone’s feelings and experiences are unique. So don’t compare your feelings. They get it

Avoid strenuous activities in the beginning. “Learning veterans’ physiological limits causes a dramatic increase in heart rate that mimics the fight-or-flight response. And steers the person toward trauma-related experiences or memories,” advises Koshaba.

Another trick that some people find helpful when teaching people with PTSD is to close the studio door before class starts. Depending on the cause of PTSD, an environment that feels safe can be created. It is important to let customers know that your practice is to encourage them to reach their destination on time.


Working with veterans and others with PTSD can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience. Research more about this condition and learn as much as you can before declaring that you work with PTSD patients. Volunteering at a local veterans organization is a great way to gain additional knowledge. Meet veterans in your community. And build relationships before you serve them.

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