Working Out PTSD


Presented as a service to our local communities by Bristol Total Fitness personal trainer Amilcar Conceicao

Exercise can help you cope with PTSD.  In addition to being documented in numerous studies, I’m living proof.

My Personal Experience:

I’m not a journalist or clinician, I'm a personal trainer and nutrition specialist. I have suffered from PTSD and exercise has played a huge role in my transformation as a well-adjusted and happy adult, personal trainer, father and spouse. In addition to being helped by some great therapists, at around age 14 I started working out and found that the more I did it – the more in control I felt over my body and mind – increasing my strength and helping me develop self-esteem. Exercise helped me overcome feeling powerless and became a coping mechanism for my PTSD that I stuck with for myself and that I have had the pleasure of gifting to others.

What is PTSD?

As defined by the American Psychiatric Association, Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, or rape or who have been threatened with death, sexual violence or serious injury.

PTSD effects include:   flashbacks, high anxiety, personality changes, startled responses, mood swings, and disturbed sleep.

It's important to know there are things you can do, in addition to getting the help and guidance of experienced mental health professionals.

How Exercise Helps

When you’re suffering from PTSD, exercise can do more than release endorphins and improve your mood and outlook.

Evidence suggests that by really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise, you can actually help your nervous system become unstuck.


  • Get Grounded:  Since exercise can cause increased body arousal (increased heart rate and breathing, sweating etc.) that may or may not trigger symptoms, make sure to practice breathing techniques that will ground you.
  • Develop Rituals:  Try to create a healthy ritual that you repeat every time before a workout. For example, in the beginning I would spend 20 minutes meditating and focusing on the goals of the workout before starting. This will help create a habit and help you get into the gym.
  • Just start! Staying consistent is key but the best advice is to simply start as soon as possible. The effects of exercise are both immediate and long-term so the sooner you start the better!

If you suspect that you or a loved one has post-traumatic stress disorder, it’s important to seek help right away. The sooner PTSD is treated, the easier it is to overcome.

PTSD Resources and Information:

They say health is wealth and at Bristol Total Fitness we agree. With our strong values about healthy living, we want everyone to have an opportunity to be part of our community and live their best life at any age.

Get a Free Pass to Try Out Bristol Total Fitness:


Full use of club facilities. Unlimited group exercise classes: Offer is for local residents only.


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.