COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Researchers with the Dorn VA Hospital and the University of South Carolina are conducting a study of physical activity for veterans with combat-related post traumatic stress disorder.

Following combat, PTSD is a common condition, which can involve stress, depression, anxiety, disturbed sleep and other symptoms. The study is supported by the VA and a research grant from the Department of Defense. The VA and DoD are interested in developing non-drug treatments for PTSD.

The aim of the study is to examine whether physical activity is helpful for PTSD. Researchers are recruiting 40 veterans, who are either on active duty or are warriors in transition. Participants must be between 18 and 65 years old and experiencing symptoms of combat stress. Participants can receive other treatments while in the study.

Physical activity can have many mental health benefits, but it is not known whether exercise is helpful for PTSD. However, it is likely that exercise would be helpful for preventing or reversing other health problems that are common among combat veterans, including heart disease and diabetes. Many people with PTSD are not very active physically, but the researches think that military personnel might be more willing and able to participate in a physical activity study than civilians.

The study takes a lot of time, and participants need to live within about 30 miles of downtown Columbia. Participants have to go through a number of steps to make sure the experiment would be safe and appropriate for them.

These steps include completing several questionnaires, a physical exam, an ultra-sound examination of the heart, and an interview with a psychologist at the Dorn VA Hospital.

Applicants who are accepted to participate will be scheduled for the nine-week study. During the first week, participants follow their usual routines. After the first week, participants are assigned to one of two groups. Participants are assigned to the groups by chance.

One group will do aerobic exercises and strength exercises on three days per week for the next eight weeks. Another group will do stretching exercises on three days per week for the next eight weeks.

These exercises will be performed the Public Health Research Center of USC at 921 Assembly St. Personnel trained in exercise and safety will monitor participants as they exercise and provide instructions about the protocols.

The participants will be assessed in many different ways. Before and after the study, a psychologist will interview participants; participants will undergo memory tests; they will be tested on a treadmill; and they will have blood drawn.

Throughout the study, participants will complete many questionnaires to provide self-assessments of how they are doing.

For the duration of the study, participants will wear wrist monitors around the clock that provide the researchers information about the participants' sleep. In addition, brain scans (MRI) will be performed before and after the study, though these scans will not be performed if a participant is nervous about being in closed spaces.

Participants will receive $500 for completing the study as a compensation for their time and commitment. For more information, contact Shawn Youngstedt at 777-2666 or by emailing syougstedt@sc.edu.

Page last updated Wed August 22nd, 2012 at 00:00