It is no secret that daily physical exercise can significantly lower stress levels over time. Studies have revealed that physical exercise lowers levels of the chemical cortisol in the brain—the hormone solely responsible for stress—while simultaneously raising the levels of endorphins—the hormone responsible for feeling good. As a result, exercise (in the end) feels extremely rewarding.

Therefore, people like combat veterans who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can greatly benefit from physical exercise. The U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs reports that one in five combat veterans develops Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, either during or shortly after combat. The Mayo Clinic defines PTSD as having three main categories of symptoms: “re-experiencing symptoms,” “avoidance symptoms,” and “hyperarousal symptoms”. These categories can be simplified to describe symptoms of flashbacks and nightmares, feeling of guilt and depression, and insomnia, respectively.

While any sort of moderate to intense exercise can greatly increase levels of endorphins in the brain, certain exercises work better and faster. For people who chronically suffer from stress, such news can come across as quite a relief. But what sort of exercises can lower levels of cortisol more quickly?

An article published by the Harvard Medical School called “Exercising to Relax” says that some of the best exercises to help relieve the most stress are jogging, running, or using the elliptical. The journal explains how these exercises require people to use multiple major muscle groups, which in turn makes them feel more productive and powerful.

Since veterans are already physically fit, integrating a regular exercise regime should be relatively easy. But aside from relieving PTSD stress through exercise, veterans might also want to consult the medical community for rehabilitation. Cognitive behavioral therapy and psychiatric medication are two of the more effective techniques that veterans can receive to help combat their symptoms of PTSD.

However, veterans suffering from such high levels of stress should be wary of seeking such treatment options from the VA, since reports released by CBS News in 2013 revealed that medical professionals associated with the VA prescribed 259% more narcotics than in 2002, and that individualized therapy had fallen by the wayside. A medical practitioner associated with the VA anonymously admitted to CBS News in a TV interview that “it is easier to write a prescription for narcotics and to just move along and get to the next patient” so that more veterans would be “treated”. Therefore, ailing veterans might want to consider consulting non-associated medical facilities to rehabilitate their physical and mental health.

One of those organizations is Operation: I.V, a 501(c)3 non-profit founded in 2012 that helps combat veterans heal from both PTSD as well as traumatic brain injuries. Its founder, Roxann Abrams, is a Gold Star Mother who lost her son SFC Randy Abrams in 2009. Randy took his own life after experiencing a PTSD flashback from his service in Iraq. Randy had undiagnosed PTSD- a common occurrence among combat veterans either due to mistakes made by the medical field or simply the individual’s failure to report such grave symptoms.

As a result of her son’s death, Abrams founded Operation: I.V. so that combat veterans who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan have a place to receive treatment through a specialized “VIP”, or “Veteran Intervention Plan” program. “VIP” offers ten different rehabilitation programs, including hyperbolic oxygen therapy, service dogs, and anxiety reduction therapy. Additionally, veterans may also partake in programs such as job retraining, business mentoring, and educational assistance. Again, while there is no cure for PTSD, the programs provided by Operation: I.V. can drastically improve a veteran’s mental health and overall outlook on life!

Author's Bio: 

Abigail Fazelat is a contributing writer for Operation: I.V., a non-profit organization founded by Gold Star Mother Roxann Abrams who lost her son SFC Randy Abrams to PTSD. Randy took his own life after experiencing a wartime flashback- an experience not uncommon to any combat veteran. As a result, Abrams founded Operation: I.V. as an “intravenous of help” for other Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, and contemplating suicide. Fazelat has worked for the organization since October 2013 under a pseudonym.