Veterans Group Exercise for PTSD (VGX)


The Veterans Group EXercise (VGX) project is a collaborative effort between UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine and the San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Center (VAMC).  Together, we developed a new integrative medicine protocol using a non-pharmaceutical mind-body approach, Integrative Exercise, to the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disease (PTSD) among veterans. We are researching the effectiveness of the intervention on PTSD symptoms, including sleep disturbances, quality of life, vascular function and volume of the hippocampal subfields of the brain.

VGX Integrative Exercise integrates Western aerobic exercise and strength training (with weights and resistance bands) with yoga movements and postures presented within a framework of mindfulness principles based on concepts from Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindful Breathing. With its focus on breathing and mindful body awareness, Integrative Exercise combines Western and Eastern fitness and wellness traditions into a mind-body approach that is adapted to military veterans.

We have completed a pilot study of twelve weeks of two to three weekly one-hour sessions of group classes, which found clinically important and statistically significant improvements in PTSD symptom intensity and quality of life in the intervention group, as compared to a waitlist. The positive results of the pilot study led to a larger study funded for four years by the Veterans Affairs Administration.

Our specific goals for VGX are as follows:

  • Test the effect of Integrative Exercise therapy on PTSD symptoms and quality of life in men and women veterans;
  • Examine the effect of Integrative Exercise therapy on sleep in veterans with PTSD symptoms;
  • Examine the effect of Integrative Exercise therapy on volume of the brain’s hippocampus in veterans with PTSD symptoms; and
  • Examine the effects of Integrative Exercise therapy on vascular function in veterans with PTSD.
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